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Tennessee Titans: Keys to Victory vs. Houston

Stoney Keeley
The Tennessee Titans travel to Houston for the first AFC South game of the season. With the division wide open, whichever team wins this game will be atop the standings. What can the Titans do to win it? | Photo Credit: James Kenney - AP Photo

The (1-2) Tennessee Titans draw their first opponent from the AFC South this Sunday as the team travels to Houston for a showdown with the (2-1) Texans. Las Vegas seems to think the Texans will be five points better than the Titans in this contest. Mike Mularkey’s squad is coming off of a heart-breaking loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Titans had a strong chance to win the game before being suffocated by ill-timed penalties. Bill O’Brien’s group were boat-raced by the New England Patriots to the tune of 27-0.

That being said, the division looks wide open going into week four. Indianapolis and Jacksonville face serious concerns. Whoever wins this game will have a distinct advantage as the season rolls along. What can the Titans do to pull off the upset?

Settle down

The most important thing the Titans can do to start winning game is simply settling down. Turnovers are absolutely plaguing this team, and whether people want to face it or not, Marcus Mariota has been the biggest contributor to that. His coaches aren’t exactly helping him out, but he has to be better.

The Titans are committing penalties at inopportune moments, too. Taylor Lewan could have cost his team a chance to send last week’s game into overtime on a critical unnecessary roughness call. Andre Johnson was called for offensive pass interference on what would’ve been a game-tying touchdown. The call was debatable, but was made nonetheless.

If this team can simply settle down, play disciplined football, and secure the ball, it won’t need quick drives late in the fourth quarter to win games.

Make Vince Wilfork look old

The strength of this team is its running game. DeMarco Murray has been better than any of us imagined he’d be. He’s averaging six yards-per-carry, amassed 245 rushing yards, and happens to have more receptions than any other Titan to boot. 377 total yards through three games? You bet the Titans will take that for a fourth-round draft pick. When Murray needs a spell, Derrick Henry has come in and been serviceable. Collectively, the Titans have rushed for 19 first downs.

Sunday, this duo will go up against a Texans run defense that’s allowing 125.7 yards per game, and four rushing touchdowns. The Titans should be salivating. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork has long been a punishing run-stuffer, but this Sunday, he should be made to look old and tired by this bruising Titans run game.

Contain DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller

It’s a tall task, but the Titans just can’t afford to allow either of these guys to break loose. Dick LeBeau’s defense did a fine job of keeping Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out of the end zone. Yardage was still an issue, but at least they weren’t raining touchdowns in Nashville. That’s an improvement.

Are Hopkins and Fuller a better duo? No. Not yet. Still, this defense can’t afford to fall back into its old bugaboo of allowing elite receivers to torch them. Hopkins is one of the best wideouts in the league, while Fuller has blazing speed. The Titans secondary is already one of the weaker parts of the team, but if it allows either of these guys to run free, it’ll be a long day.

Yielding big plays to Houston’s receiving corps is one way to ensure this team will be chasing its opponent in the fourth quarter yet again.


Stoney Keeley is a Tennessee Titans Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT's Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.

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