Over the last two weeks Texans fans have come down harder than an ecstasy fueled rave on the beaches of Ibiza. The serotonin rush has evaporated. The energy has been sucked out. The sun is up. Nothing looks quite as fantastical. Reality has set in.
We have no quarterback. We’ve lost to two inferior teams. Our thoroughbred receiver has a bum leg and our defensive mastermind Wade Phillips has been out following surgery. Time to abandon ship! It’s all over.
Not so fast.
If I’ve seen one thing about the NFL playoffs it’s that anything can happen. Get into the dance and you’ve got a shot. With all the negativity surrounding the last two weeks the facts remain the same; the Texans are the AFC South Champs, the 3rd
seed in the playoffs, and theoretically have as good a shot as anyone to get to the Super Bowl in the wide-open AFC.
There isn’t a single AFC team without a glaring weakness and one could soundly argue that the four best teams in the NFL all reside in the NFC at the moment. Moreover the Texans will be getting both Andre Johnson and Wade Phillips back this week as a little tune up before the franchises first playoff game.
The playoff tune-up happens to be against a hungry and needy division rival Tennessee Titans. With a win and some luck the Titans will be back in reliant in a week or less for a winner take all battle. While Gary Kubiak and the Texans insist Sunday’s matchup against the Titans is as meaningful as any other, it’s not.
Expect the Texans to play this game like the 3rd
preseason game. In other words it will be a tune up for the playoffs with the starters seeing 2 ½ quarters of action at the very most. Nevertheless, Texans fans should be interested to see how the team responds in the first half after their two worst losses of the season.
I’m interested to see the Texans first half offense as they’ve managed a paltry 29 combined points in their last two games. Houston has scored 20 points or fewer in five straight games since Matt Schaub went out with a right Lisfranc fracture. Prior to that they scored 20 or more in all but two games; Steelers and Ravens. What makes the offensive regression even more alarming is that its come against arguably the worst defenses in the league in the Colts and the Panthers.
T.J. Yates didn’t look particularly special in those games either and needs all the practice he can get before the playoffs start. Last weeks pusillanimous play-calling last game was indicative of a team that is protecting a rookie quarterback from himself rather then giving him a chance to win (or lose) a game. I’d like to see Yates and Andre Johnson get on the same page a few times in the first half. However don’t expect Johnson to see more than 30 offensive plays even if the starters play the entire game. Nevertheless it will be great to see Andre Johnson back. The Texans, and especially T.J. Yates, need him back in a desperate way. They haven’t had a single completion over 30 yards in his absence with since Yates has taken the offensive reigns.
While every major quality stats points to an overwhelming advantage for the Texans, this is one of those games you can basically throw out those indicators given the contrast in motivation for each team. It’s tough to think the Texans will win much less dominate given that the outcome has zero effect on their playoff standings.
Which is exactly why Vegas likes the Titans in this game; although there has been some surprising line movement in this one. The Titans have the motivation and the desperation – two of the most important ingredients for a winning football team.
The trends say take the Texans as they’re 22-8-1 ATS off back-to-back losses. Then again, the game is four quarters not two and I would be extremely surprised to see Texans starters out there in the second half. For my degenerate friends out there the 1st
half is a safer play if you’re going to take the Texans.
This game will truly be a tale of two halves, because Gary Kubiak simply won't play their starters the entire game. For the Texans the risk of injury in comparison to the reward for victory is far to great that only a fool would do it
Houston wins this game if they jump out to an early first half lead and Ben Tate carries the load in the second half en route to a victory. If the Titans can withstand the initial volleys in the first half, and keep the game close going into the second half, I’d expect them to pull out a victory against the Texans second string.