There is not much to say about last week's game against the Falcons. Hopefully the Titans have forgotten as much about that dreadful game as I have, because an important game is right around the corner against Houston. The Titans are a bad football team and poorly run organization, but the AFC South is apparently full of them. A win would somehow make the Titans a factor in this embarrassing divisional title race.
Reasons For Confidence: Mariota's Return, Texans' Run Defense
Mariota's Return: I think most people would agree that if Marcus Mariota played last Sunday against Atlanta, the Titans find a way to score more than 7 points and win the game. Mariota is the best player on the offense and everything runs through him. His return should not only bring a spark to the team, but most importantly, the offense should look much better than it did last week.
Texans' Run Defense: A lot has been made this week of Antonio Andrews' lack of opportunities despite quite possibly being the best running back on the team. Ken Whisenhunt has abandoned the run a couple of times this season despite success, and it has come back to really hurt the Titans. Mickey Ryan posted on Twitter that Whisenhunt's last 100 yard rusher was Larod Stevens-Howling, and no running back has gotten more than 18 touches since then. That may change this week, considering the fact that the Texans' run defense is ranked 29th in the league. Their linebackers have really been struggling. Combine that with Marcus Mariota possibly not being 100 percent, and Antonio Andrews could get a workload.
Reasons For Concern: DeAndre Hopkins, Watt and Clowney, Run Defense
DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins is a top 5 receiver in the league right now. He is consistently producing and making big plays for Houston, despite dreadful quarterback play. He has destroyed the Titans secondary a number of times throughout his career, whether it was week 2 in 2013, or last season when the Titans traveled to Houston. Considering the fact that the Titans secondary is still a little shaken up--they could be missing Perrish Cox again--Hopkins could take over the game.
Watt and Clowney: This is clearly the strongest part of the Houston Texans. JJ Watt can completely take over a game by himself any week. While Clowney does not have a lot of sacks, he has been very productive and has caused a lot of disruption. The Titans' offense line absolutely must hold their own against this front not only to get a win, but to keep Marcus Mariota upright.
Run Defense: As always, run defense is a concern with this group. I will not be able to shake visions of Lamar Miller running wild for 3 hours all over Nissan Stadium. Devonta Freeman did not absolutely explode, but he still had a very strong day against the Titans last week. Even without Arian Foster, run defense is still very much a concern.
Prediction: While there are more reasons for concern than confidence this week, I am still thinking that the Titans pull this one out. The Texans are a very bad football team with very bad quarterback play. Marcus Mariota's return should jolt the team. Titans win, 24-10.