The Houston Texans (1-4) face the undefeated Tennessee Titans (4-0) for what will be an important game to see where Houston fares against the best team in the AFC South for the first five weeks.
Week 6 Preview: Houston Texans Versus Tennessee Titans
The Texans will be facing the Titans of the AFC South
There is no bigger opponent the Houston Texans will face moving forward than the Tennessee Titans. A 1-4 start is a steep hill to climb for any team, and the Texans will have to play their best football this upcoming Sunday to claw at their current three-loss deficit.
Houston's playoff hopes have earned a few heartbeats with a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars after they were flatlining for the first four games. Defeating Tennessee will go a long way in helping Houston potentially obtain a spot in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
Stop the rushing game to stop Tennessee's victory run
It isn't too difficult to see why the Houston Texans have struggled early on. The Texans have struggled to stop the run and set the edge to contain opposing offenses on the ground.
The Titans have the 9th best rushing attack with an average of 131.5 yards per game, and it is headlined by Derrick Henry, who has 101 carries (2nd in the NFL) for 376 yards (3rd) in only four games.
Henry is a high volume back, and he will get the ball regardless of how well he is doing for the day. He is averaging 94 yards per game (2nd in the league), but he is averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Having a north-south runner in Henry provides plenty of challenges for any defense, and the Texans are in for a long day facing a team dedicated to running the football.
Houston allows an average of 160.4 yards (31st in the league) and has allowed the most rushing yards in the league with 802. The defense also lost a big physical linebacker in Benardrick McKinney for the season with a shoulder injury.
The Texans need Tyrell Adams to be up to par after a promising performance against a lesser running game with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense itself looked stronger with Anthony Weaver and Romeo Crennel at the helm as the interim head coach.
Weaver has an experienced coach in his corner with Crennel seeing it all at 73 years of age, and he has five previous years as the Texans defensive coordinator.
Another interesting aspect is the coaches have lowered the number of snaps Whitney Mercilus has seen through the last two games. Mercilus had 62, 50, and 59 snaps through his first three games, only seeing 44 and 50 snaps in the last two games.
A lower snap count could bode well for an older player like Mercilus, who has 3 sacks and a fumble recovery since playing a lower amount of snaps. The same can be said for Scarlett, who played the second-lowest snaps (34) against the Jaguars since playing 26 snaps in the season opener.
The defense can also get other defenders involved, such as Jacob Martin, who has seen 29 and 35 snaps in the last two games after only seeing an average of 23 snaps in the first three weeks.
Martin had a sack and a forced fumble in the last game, so he is a likely candidate to get more snaps after a good performance last week. Creating turnovers has been an emphasis after the defense went four games without any, and they responded with two against the Jaguars offense.
Houston's secondary remains ranked in the top ten (8th) against the pass, and they will need to hold their own against the Titans when targeted. Tennessee is averaging 245.8 through the air (17th) but is averaging a healthy 30.5 points per game (6th).
Titans' rushing attack ultimately dictates how their offense fares throughout the game, so it will be important the defense puts its best foot forward in Week 6 to limit the run.
Offense needs to build from Week 5 performance
The Houston Texans' offense looked a lot better against the Jaguars, and they need to come out with the same aggressiveness if they hope to compete with the Titans' production on offense.
Houston is averaging 22 points per game on offense, but they had their highest scoring game last week by putting 30 points on Jacksonville's defense.
The Titans are rather average to below-average as an overall defense when it comes to several statistical categories, but they are one of the best at creating turnovers.
Tennessee leads the league with six interceptions and three forced fumbles for a total of nine takeaways through four games. However, they have allowed an average of 261 passing yards per game (23rd) and 148.3 rushing yards per game (27th).
The Titans' defense has had issues with getting off the field on third down and they are allowing a league worst 60% conversion rate. The Titans have also struggled bringing down the opposing quarterback and have only five sacks through four games.
Tennessee ranks dead last in the league in that category, and that can be beneficial for the Texans offense after they took advantage of their previous opponent in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Houston has avenues to get their passing game going against a defense like the Titans with their receiver talent, but they will need to limit their turnovers. As mentioned before, Deshaun Watson has the ability to put huge numbers on almost any defense, but he will need to not throw careless interceptions like he did in Week 5.
The run game has been a wildcard from week to week, but there is some intrigue as David Johnson had a season high 96 yards last week with Tim Kelly tailoring the offense to the personnel available.
This offense has the capability to string their second victory this week against their second AFC South opponent on their schedule, but limiting turnovers will be crucial.
This game will be a litmus test to where Houston stands after their first win of the season, and whether their win against Jacksonville was a sign of improvement rather than a coincidence.