1. I feel pretty good saying I expect Gary Kubiak to establish the run today. Honestly, it’s not what I would do, but I bet it’s what he will do. They ran the ball 27 times last week, despite trailing much of the game. I’d expect both Arian Foster & Ben Tate to have at least ten carries. Looking at the Titans defense a week ago can be a little deceiving. Clearly you should have some respect for what they did to the Steelers (15 carries, 31 yards), but the Steelers have no running backs, a terrible offensive line and an offensive coordinator that will not last the season (Todd Haley).
2. Antonio Smith’s return should be significant. The Texans got very little push and pressure early in the game, but over the final 5 series they dominated up front. They need to do that from the get go and Smith’s presence should be noticeable, especially as it relates to the personnel committed to JJ Watt. Disguising their defensive looks should be much more effective against the suspect passer Jake Locker, than it was against savvy veteran Philip Rivers. If the Texans win the turnover battle, I’d pretty much guarantee a victory, and a comfortable one at that. Even if they don’t the Titans will need to run the ball very well in my opinion to avoid seeing a lopsided loss as they did in each game last season (38-14, 24-10).
3. Texans offensive line vs Titans front seven. Only 1 team had more sacks than Tennessee’s 5 last week. Only 1 defense allowed fewer points than the 7 Tennessee allowed last week (2 points came on a Titans safety). Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey gave the Texans some bulletin board material when he said the Titans would stick their foot up the Texans “butt”. Clearly, Casey can play. He is one of the better DTs in the AFC and he’s talked before and backed it up. The Texans are aware of his comments, but they don’t need motivation. Their performance against San Diego was fair. Schaub actually did a nice job avoiding several sacks throughout the game and the Texans run blocking was clearly better than their pass protection. I don’t think they can expect to get away with that against too many teams. Maybe today but Casey and Brown and an attacking defense, directed by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams could be a lot more trouble than people are expecting.
Prediction: Texans 30, Titans 17.