The JJ Watt Effect: Tennessee @ Houston

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The Houston Texans have placed defensive end JJ Watt on the IR list following last weekend’s game against versus Patriots, in which Watt reinjured his back. This means Watt, a three time NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, will be eligible under new league protocols to return after eight weeks on the injured reserve list. However, many sources close to the Texans believe Watt has more than likely played his last snap for the team this season. He has never missed a start in his five year career for Houston since being drafted #11 overall in the 2011 NFL draft.

This brings us to this week’s game for the Titans. A pivotal early-season divisional clash which pits a reeling Titans team, desperate for an away victory versus a divisional foe. This foe being the aforementioned Texans, a team that started out hot, but quickly fizzled out after being dissected by Bill Belichick’s Patriots in week three.

Both teams are looking for statement wins on Sunday in Houston. The Titans, lost last week yet again in devastating fashion at home against Oakland. A game which had Marcus Mariota’s turnovers in the game again play a major role, negating the stellar performance from the Dick LeBeau coached defense.

Houston started the season as one of the hot picks to make a potential late playoff run. After signing quarterback Brock Osweiller, the team figured to have a chance for an explosive pairing between him and their elite downfield receiving target, DeAndre Hopkins. However, they were dismantled at the hands of the Pats, losing 27-0 and showing little signs of life offensively.

Going into Sunday’s matchup, there will be two teams taking the field who are both equally desperate for a win. The Titans, need this win to keep the ship afloat. A loss Sunday to a division rival would be devastating this early in the season.

Houston, looks to rebound after an embarrassing outing versus New England and will be forced to fill the massive hole left by the absence of the league’s top pass rusher, JJ Watt. Watt’s replacement is Antonio Smith, a former Texan defensive end that brings experience to a spot that no one could fill like Watt can.

In order for a Titans victory Sunday, the formula is simple. Protect the football. The reoccurring turnover issues for the Tennessee offense and Mariota especially have plagued the team’s chances early in the season. If the team hopes to make a run for the AFC South, they simply cannot afford to turn the ball over as much. Ideally, the TOs would be eliminated entirely, but like life, no one is perfect on the football field.

That is why when the Titans have a chance to put the Texans away Sunday, which I fully expect them to be capable of doing, they cannot allow Houston to remain in the game by squandering possession of the ball. The return of tight end Delanie Walker this week will be gladly welcomed by Mariota and the offense, as his presence and production were missed last Sunday versus Oakland.

If Tennessee can establish their running game as they did versus the Raiders, where Demarco Murray became the first Titans back to eclipse 100 yards rushing in 13 games, they stand a great chance to win. However, if Mariota’s turnovers persist, the Titans will likely be sitting at 1-3 following Sunday’s matchup in Houston.

Each week the defense gives the Titans a great chance to come out victorious. Expect that to be no different this week. The legendary LeBeau will help keep the game winnable for Tennessee, but it will ultimately come down to the performance of Marcus Mariota.

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