Posted on November 23, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Last week, the NFL and TV executives got exactly what the wanted out of Monday night’s Rams-Chiefs game—an exciting, high-scoring affair that was jam-packed with action until the very end. It was the kind of game that left fans wanting more. But what is going to follow up one of the highest scoring games in NFL history?
The exact opposite is what will be following up that historic game this week. It will be a game between two teams that will be lucky to score 40 combined points, the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans.
But while the two teams will probably not combine for 40 points in this one (the over/under is 41.5) that doesn’t mean the football will be bad. In fact, some would say that the Texans and Titans will play better football. Why?
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Easy—because unlike the Ram and the Chiefs, these guys can actually play defense.
Tennessee relies on their defense a bit more than the Texans. Houston is about average when it comes to putting points on the board averaging a hair under 24 a game. The Titans are closer to the bottom of the league with just 17.8 points a game. But when you only allow 18.9 a game, you don’t need to score as much.
Of course, it would be better to average more points a game on offense than you allow, but there is a reason why the Titans are 5-5. They are terribly inconsistent on offense. Their defense is capable of shutting down the best running backs (Ezekiel Elliot only had 61) and quarterbacks in the league (Tom Brady was 21-42 for 254 yards and no touchdowns).
But then their offense goes out and puts up a stinker against the Colts, with and without Mariota at quarterback.
Houston had a dreadful start to the season with three straight losses but somehow managed to figure out how to right the ship in Week Four and haven’t looked back. After escaping Washington last week with their seventh consecutive win, they are 7-3 and are in danger of becoming a team no one wants to meet in the playoffs.
However, their success on offense seems to hinge on whether or not the can run the ball. When they can, defenses are forced to respect the run and passing games which means a little less pressure on Deshaun Watson. That, in turn, makes it easier for Watson to get the passing game on track.
But the Titans are one of the better run defenses in the league this year. So, if they can shut down the Houston run game, does that mean it will be an easy win for the Titans?
The Titans were able to share some good news recently. It appears that Marcus Mariota will likely be able to start the game this week. They have expected him to start, but it wasn’t clear if he’d be able to.
With him, they have a much better chance than they would without him.
Tennessee did beat the Texans back in Week Two with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. But the Texans team that takes the field Monday night is going to be different than that version. The defense had all of its star power back. But they were still working on getting back into game shape. The kinks had yet to get worked out of the offense either.
Two months later, the offense appears to have found a rhythm that works for them and the defense is one of the better units in the league.
This game will come down to two things—who’s defense can play better and who is going to make more mistakes. The Texans have two more turnovers than the Titans this season (14 to 12). But the Titans haven’t forced as many (nine to 17 for Houston).
Don’t expect to see much out of either offense. In fact, look for the winning score to come from the defense—Houston’s defense, that is. But don’t count on the Texans covering a 6.5-point spread; they’ll win by three.
As for the over/under—this one is easy, take the under.