Current Record: 5-4
Week 12 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For a team that showed so much promise last year, the Buccaneers have been a disorganized mess.
Week 13 – Buffalo Bills: The Bills aren’t as good as they looked at the beginning of the year or as bad as they looked the past couple of weeks. They’re the epitome of an average team.
Week 14 – New Orleans Saints: An offense that has been great for years has gotten even better with the emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Mark Ingram. Drew Brees will shred the Titans’ secondary.
Week 15 – Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are just awful. If the Titans lose to them, they don’t deserve to make the playoffs. Period.
Week 16 – Jacksonville Jaguars: The Titans lost to the Jaguars on opening weekend, but it was quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s first game with the Titans and both teams played a sloppy game. This time around the Titans have Hasselbeck playing better, and the Jaguars are even worse at the quarterback position than they were last time the two teams played.
Week 17 – Houston Texans: This could decide the division. The Titans need to find a way to get Johnson involved in the game plan a lot more than he was the last time these two teams played, when the crowd booed him as he amassed 18 yards on ten carries.
Current Record: 7-3
Week 11 – Bye: Couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Leinart can get two weeks of full-time starter practice, and Andre Johnson has more time to get fully healthy.
Week 12 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Houston has too many talented players not to win this game, regardless of who plays at quarterback.
Week 13 – Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons’ run defense is among the best in the league, so for the Texans to win, their passing game will have to produce. Andre Johnson is a great receiver, but it doesn’t matter if Leinart can’t get him the ball.
Week 14 – Cincinatti Bengals: This defense’s biggest weakness is its linebackers’ speed. The Texans can win this game by running to the outside early and often.
Week 15 – Carolina Panthers: The Texans can get away with running the ball down the Panthers’ throats. Cam Newton is great, but there’s only so much one player can do for such an awful team.
Week 16 – Indianapolis Colts: An early Christmas gift for the Texans.
Week 17 – Tennessee Titans: The Texans have to keep the Titans’ running game in check, because the Titans’ passing game isn’t good enough to succeed on its own if the running game gets shut down.
The Texans still have a phenomenal running game that will take a ton of weight off of Matt Leinart’s shoulders, so teams like the Colts and Jaguars should not become major roadblocks. The best three teams the Texans face the rest of the season are the Falcons, Bengals and Titans. The best three teams the Titans face the rest of the season are the Saints, Falcons and Texans.
Barring anything unforeseen, both teams should win the rest of their games aside from their three toughest games. As a result of NFL tiebreaking procedures, the Titans are all but eliminated from winning the AFC South if they finish with the same record as the Texans. In short, the Texans can afford to lose one more game than the Titans can afford to lose.
If the Texans lose to the Falcons, Bengals and Titans, they’ll finish 10-6, meaning the Titans have to finish at 11-5 or better. With four losses already, the Titans can only get away with losing one game. Needless to say, they have to beat the Texans. Chances are they won’t be able to beat the Saints, whose offense is slowly heating up and getting better every week. Call that a 1-1 split between those two games, and all of the sudden the Falcons game becomes more important.
Assuming the Texans lose to the Falcons, Bengals and Titans, they will be 8-4 in games in which they shared a common opponent with the Titans, which is the measure the NFL uses as a tiebreaker between teams that split their head-to-head meetings. If the Titans lose to both Atlanta and New Orleans, they will be 6-6 in games in which they shared a common opponent with the Texans.
In other words, the Titans’ upcoming game against the Falcons will all but define their season. Of course, Leinart could end up looking like he did in Arizona and end up blowing some of the Texans’ “gimme” games and the whole discussion could become irrelevant. For the Titans to keep their destiny in their own hands, though, they have to win in Atlanta.