Know Your Enemy! Thanks for the Memories 2016
Know Your Enemy - Week 17
Houston Texans 9-6 at Tennessee Titans 8-7
In week 16 the Titans put out a remarkably poor effort, lost Mariota for the year and flushed their playoff chances down the drain. They also crushed the hopes of the entire fan base. I'm still a little salty about the lack of effort they showed. Hopefully they've now learned a very important lesson for next year. They must learn how to deal with success. You can't get too low after a loss and you cannot get too high after a win. The Titans were on cloud nine after the amazing Chief's victory and forgot that the Jaguars are a talented team no matter how badly they've played this season. I warned about all the ways this was a trap game. Everyone could see it coming though so I didn't expect them to fall for it. I overestimated the Titans' appreciation for how far they've come this season. They forgot how hard the previous eight wins were after achieving just five the in the prior two season.
Now we'll see how the team responds to the loss of their quarterback, their season and their pride. This week's game means nothing to anybody in the league except the Titans and the Texans. What it means to them are different things though. The Texans are looking to get Tom Savage and the offense tuned up for the playoffs. The Titans have declared they are looking to extra some measure of self respect from this game but personally I'd rather see them put their young players on the field and start the tryouts for next season. Players like Walker and Casey will want to go out as winners though and will surely petition the coaches to let them go win this one.
When the Texans have the ball:
Tom Savage has looked decidedly average in his two starts for the Texans. His QB average is 82.6 with no touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks. That is what you have to say for Savage at this point. He hasn't cost his team games. Bill O'Brien isn't asking him to be special. He just wants him to suck less than Osweiler. That shouldn't be much of a challenge as the former starters 14 touchdowns to 16 interceptions sets a low bar. Already his QB rating is 11 points higher and he's shown that his only job is to get the ball the playmakers and let them do the work from there.
There is rumor that Lamar Miller's ankle will keep him out of this game as the team rests him for the playoffs. If that's the case Alfred Blue will carry the load. Blue has a better yards per attempt than Miller (4.4 vs 4.0) and while not a star he's certainly serviceable. Miller has only accounted for five touchdowns this season but has given the Texans their thousand yard back to replace Foster.
DeAndre Hopkins is 169 yards short of a thousand yards and we know he'd like to hit that magic number. Given that they have nothing to lose really there is a chance that O'Brien lets his star player go for it and tells savage to target him as much as it takes. The Titans don't have much of an answer for Hop but if they want to test their young players now is the time. It seems doubtful they put McCourty on the field as the veteran DB has looked a step slow in recent weeks and missed last week with an injury.
Tight end Fiedorowicz burned the Titans badly in their first meeting. He is second on the team with 52 receptions for 547 yards. He could be a problem again for the Titans this week. Rookie speedster Will Fuller has not been the big play threat we expected since back to back 100 yard games to start the season. With only 2 touchdowns he looks like another rookie receiver that is still learning the game.
The Texans line gives up too many pressures and is inconsistent week to week. Duane Brown is still capable of having great games at left tackle but isn't always in good form. Rookie center Greg Mancz has played very well this season and is probably their best and most consistent player.
If Miller does miss this game expect the Titans pass rush to come hard after Savage to get in his head early. What the Titans do on defense as a whole will be determined by whom they chose to start. If they put the veterans out to start the game they are looking for respect and the win. If they use this game to get their young players experience then the match-ups will become more interesting.
When the Titans have the ball:
We know the big change here. Mariota is done and Cassell is now the Titans quarterback for the final game of the season. The 34 year old quarterback has 25 attempts on the season with 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 Sack. He's been a Brock Osweiller most of his career. Someone who played behind an great quarterback and filled in admirable for a bit. That small sample was enough to get him the starting job in Kansas City for awhile where he had one good season in 2010 and then not much else to point to. His career quarterback rating is below Savages this season at 79.2. There has been a lot of talk this week about Alex Tanney and we may see him in this game but fans should expect Cassell to be the starter.
DeMarco Murray has had a great season. He has convinced the league that he is not a has been and proven those of us who blamed the Philly system for his struggles correct. The veteran has nothing left to prove this season and Ezekiel Elliot has a 366 yard lead for the rushing title so there is not point in playing him the whole game. This would be a good game to give the Henry fans what they want and let the rookie go out and knock around the Texans a bit. Without Watt and Clowney there isn't much sexy to the Texans front seven though Mercilus and Cushing will certainly try to make an impact.
The Titans know what they have in their receivers at this point so there isn't much point in rotating the group. There isn't much to prove for this group now. Matthews and Sharpe have established themselves as the best options at the position. Everybody else is on the bubble to even be on the team next season. It's not much different at TE as after Walker they are all developmental players or in the case of Fasano at the end of their career. We may see more of Amaro this game if the Titans want to give him some work.
The Titans line is up to this challenge. They can block well in both phases of the game and it's unlikely that we see a lot of rotation beyond maybe working Tretola onto the field some. Mike Mularkey would like to win this game and messing with his line is the surest way to lose it so I don't expect any surprises here.
In the end this is an exhibition game at the end of the season. It is the teams last home game and caps what really is a remarkable season. The team may tell you they expected to win this many games but most of us didn't believe it. They proved they have a workable system and the coaches have earned another shot next year. John Robinson knows what he needs to fix on this roster to make the playoffs a reasonable expectation next year as his defense needs work and his young quarterback could use some additional weapons.
Whether the Titans treat this like a preseason game and march the Veterans out there for a series or two so the fans can cheer for them one last time or just start the rookies and call it a season we should all appreciate what we've seen this year. It's going to be a fun off season as we eagerly wait for John Robinson to work his magic. Thousands upon thousands of mock drafts will be performed by Titans fans. We will watch the Combine closer than we have in years looking for those few pieces that will take this team to the next level. Every veteran free agent visit will fire debates across Titans nation. Our season may be over but for some of you the real fun has just begun.
My personal thanks for the team (front office to the guy that cleans up the bleachers after the game) for energizing me to write through the entire preseason up until now. It's been a long time since I believed the team cared as much as I do.
I don't have a prediction. I don't care. Titan UP!
It has been my pleasure to write for you each week. I have no way of tracking how many people read this and we can't save the articles yet because we're still getting our act together. Thank you to my readers, whomever you may be.