Relax. Breathe. After the Houston Texans' tumultuous, roller-coaster game last week against the San Diego Chargers, the Tennessee Titans should provide a much easier challenge—hopefully—for the Texans.
Since the Texans' rise to prominence in 2011, the Texans are 3-1 against their division rivals, with their lone loss coming when they benched their starter one week before the playoffs. In all three of those wins, the Texans have defeated the Titans by an average of 24 points.
The Texans must not get off to a slow start as they painstakingly did last game. Their game plan must be excellent, and it must be executed to perfection.
Establish the Run
Last game, the Texans struggled to consistently run the ball. More specifically, though, the Texans really only struggled with their running attack when Arian Foster was in the game.
Foster, who missed all of training camp and preseason with various injuries, was clearly shaking off the rust. He was not explosive, and his patience and vision seemed to be off. Part of it was the offensive line's play, but he was definitely responsible.
Ben Tate, on the other hand, looked fantastic. He exploded through the hole with every chance he got, fought for extra yards and made key plays down the stretch.
Whether it's Foster or Tate, however, the Texans must establish the run against the Titans next week. The easiest way to beat teams with much less talent is to control the clock and efficiently march the offense down the field.
The Texans' run-blocking, which was incredible at times and horrible at others against the Chargers, must play much more consistently. If not, the Texans might struggle to maintain an effective running attack.
The game plan should be run, run, run and run again. Wear out the Titans defense and then kill it with the play action.
Get to Jake Locker
Jake Locker, a young quarterback entering his third season in the league, has yet to establish himself in the NFL.
He is often inaccurate with his passes and overall has played pretty poorly for the Titans during his short tenure with the team.
And the best way to take out a team that employs a struggling starting quarterback is to hit that quarterback and knock him down. Often. The Texans' pass rush, which only accumulated two sacks against the Chargers, must be on their game.
J.J. Watt—who greatly impacted last week's game—will be attempting to tally his first sack of the season against the Titans. Look for him to come out of the gate charging, ferociously attempting to make up for a sack-less game last week.
Antonio Smith should also greatly improve the Texans' pass rush from last week. The star defensive end—an effective pass-rusher—missed last week due to a suspension. But most of all, the Texans need pressure from the outside. Whitney Mercilus had a decent game last week, but Brooks Reed hardly applied any pressure to Philip Rivers.
If the Texans can continually get to Locker, their already favorable chances of winning will greatly increase.
Shut Down Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson, a speedy back with explosive playmaking ability, can make or break this game, or any game for that matter, for the Titans.
The recently inconsistent back is running behind a revamped offensive line this season, making him even more of a threat. If Johnson finds an opening, he's gone.
Eighty-yard rushing touchdowns hardly ever work out well for the opposing team, and the Texans defense absolutely must plug up all holes, leaving Johnson with little room to run.
If they allow Johnson to run free, an upset is certainly possible.
This game is one the Texans should have no trouble with. They are more talented and more experienced than the rebuilding Titans. An upset could always occur, but if the Texans follow the above game plan religiously, a victory should not be in question.