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Titans vs. Texans preview: When Tennessee has the ball

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Tennessee Titans v Oakland Raiders Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This Texans defense is not the same defense that we are used to seeing when these two teams match-up. The feared pass rush that featured Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt in years past is no more. Houston traded Clowney to the Seahawks before the season started and Watt is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. The absence of those 2 in particular has resulted in a defense that ranks 27th overall in DVOA and 27th against the pass. They are even worse when you look at their weighted DVOA which weighs recent performances more. They rank 30th in that metric.

The Texans struggle covering the middle of the field. They have had issues covering tight ends all season. They rank 22nd in the league in yards allowed to tight ends. There will be opportunities for Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser in this game. In the second meeting last year Smith got them for 2/63/1 before leaving the game with a knee injury that ended his season and FirkMagic put up a 4/52/0 line.

Houston also isn’t great against wide receivers. While they haven’t give up a ton of yards to wide receivers, they have allowed 15 touchdowns to the position through 13 games. This sets up as another nice match-up for A.J. Brown.

The Texans rank 18th in yards allowed to running backs on the ground and have only allowed 5 rushing touchdowns on the season. Of course, as I have said numerous times already this week, the biggest key here is the health of Derrick Henry. We know this offense runs through Henry pounding out yards on the ground and Ryan Tannehill working off play action. While you don’t always have to be effective running the ball to be effective with play action, you do need Henry and not Dion Lewis out there to make the Texans respect the threat of the run.

The bottom line here is that this Texans defense has a lot of holes that the Titans can exploit. We have seen them do a really good job at piling up points since Tannehill became the starter. There is no reason to think that shouldn’t continue here.