Free NFL Pick: Houston at Tennessee 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Tennessee -1

Overview:

The 5-8 Texans have once again under achieved. With Demeco Ryans being put on the IR so early and Brian Cushing suffering a suspension, the team has suffered its share of setbacks. Even so, the Texans have been expected to not only go to the playoffs, but potentially make noise in the AFC for the last several years. With such great ownership and a solid team to build around, if there is a coaching vacancy in Houston at the end of the season, don’t be surprised to find Bill Cowher caliber coaches lined up outside of Houston headquarters.

There could easily be a divide in the locker room in Tennessee. Are you a Vince Young guy or are you a Jeff Fisher guy. You seemingly cannot be both, as the divide appears so strong, one cannot succeed while the other remains. Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL, which puts ownership in a tricky position. Young may not be under center, but with guys like Kenny Britt making statements by sporting VY in recent weeks, it is certainly an intriguing storyline.

Keys to the Game:

  • Arian Foster is going to have another huge day. The last time he went up against the Titans, Tennessee had no answer for him. He racked up 143 yards in that game and had a season high 75 yards receiving. Foster has broken for 100 yards in seven games this season. He leads the league in yards and shows no signs of slowing down. It is very easy to get caught up in the Texans’ passing game, but Arian Foster is the most dangerous man on the field when the Texans have the ball.
  • Chris Johnson set his goal at 2500 rushing yards this season. The goal has made him the target of unnecessary criticism. Johnson looks like he will probably fall around 1,000 yards short of his goal. Even so, he has still had a fantastic season. Johnson hasn’t had a 200 yard game this season, he has put up a few duds, but all-in-all he has enjoyed a solid year, despite the drop-off from last season. He has it 100 yards just as many times as Foster has this season. The difference is most people didn’t expect Foster to break the NFL rushing record this season, so falling short of that feat is not a disappointment.
  • The loss of Mario Williams is going to further cripple the Texans’ defense. Williams has over 1/3 of Houston’s sacks. He anchors the defensive line and paves the way for other defenders to make plays. With no Demeco Ryans in the middle, losing yet another defensive super star is a crushing blow to their defense. Their run defense and pass rush take a serious hit and it is doubtful anyone will be able to fill in and have any success even comparable to Williams.
  • With Randy Moss receiving zero targets last game, it is safe to say Kenny Britt plays a more significant role on the offense than Moss, regardless of where he falls on the depth chart. Between Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, the Titans are going to need to stretch the field. Chris Johnson can still succeed with eight in the box, but the Titans are most successful running the ball when they get help from their passing attack.

Key Matchup:

Cortland Finnegan Vs. Andre Johnson

  • Cortland Finnegan is an athlete that is easy to dislike. He is mouthy, dirty, and obnoxious. His outspoken nature earned him a few haymakers from the silent giant, Andre Johnson. Johnson is the ultimate professional. You could easily make a case as to why Johnson is the best receiver in the league. He has continuously produced since he came into the league and he has remained a reserved class act throughout his entire career. In an unexpected turn of events, Johnson got into an altercation with Finnegan, a battle in which Finnegan seemed to start and lose, though Johnson was ejected from the outing.
  • Johnson has hit 149 yards and 140 yards in his last two games. He has the physical edge on Finnegan and should be able to handle him with relative ease. He needs to remain calm and disregard the antics Finnegan puts forth. It is imperative that he keeps his cool, as he has done his entire career. Finnegan will likely try to provoke Johnson, but Johnson can’t get caught up in the extra curricular activity.

Wrap Up:

The Texans have undergone a series of injuries. Even so, their offense looks like they are set to dominate the Titans with the run and pass. Matt Schaub shouldn’t struggle this week and if the Titans can’t hold the Texans to under 28, it doesn’t look like they will come away with a victory. While the Texans are not stout on defense, the Titans are once again becoming one dimensional.

Free NFL Pick: Houston +1


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