Week 12 of the NFL season comes to a close in Houston, in an AFC South rivalry match between the Texans and the Tennessee Titans. Houston enters this one atop the division with a 7-3 record, somehow winning each of their last 7 games. Tennessee enters this one at a more precarious 5-5, but they do have wins over both Dallas and New England in two of their last 3. In what is a rather messy AFC playoff picture, the Texans can firmly establish themselves as division leaders with a home win here. With so much on the line for both of these sides, let’s take a look at our 3 best bets on the board in this one.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Tuesday 12:20 pm
An 0-3 start had people very worried about the Texans this season, but Deshaun Watson and Co have done an excellent job of turning things around. Whilst he struggled somewhat last week, Watson still looks to be one of the NFL’s premier young Quarterbacks, throwing for 2600 yards and 18 touchdowns so far. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins has firmly entrenched himself as one of the league’s best wideouts, hauling in 68 catches for 950 yards and 8 touchdowns so far. Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue are also starting to form a strong duo on the ground, combining for over 130 rushing yards last week.
The strength of this Texans team is still their formidable defence, which hasn’t allowed more than 23 points in each of their last 6 games. In J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, they have two of the premier defensive linemen in the NFL. Their pass defence completely shut down Washington last week, forcing 5 sacks, 2 interceptions and allowing an average of just 4.8 yards on 39 attempts. The rush defence was also very strong, holding Adrian Peterson to just 3.2 yards per carry. Against a Titans offence that has largely struggled this season, this Texans defence has a huge matchup advantage here.
The inconsistent Titans enter this one at 5-5 after a thumping loss at the hands of the Colts last week. QB Marcus Mariota suffered a stinger in the first half last week, didn’t come back in the second half and is questionable at the time of writing. Backup QB Blaine Gabbert has been mediocre filling in for Mariota this season, although he did manage a win starting at home against the Texans earlier this season. This offence definitely centres around Running Backs Derrick Henry, who provide a perfect complement of power and finesse. The Titans receivers have largely struggled so far, although former first-rounder Corey Davis has shown some promise.
It’s been strong performances from the Titans defence that has kept them in games this season. Defensive Tackle Jurrell Casey is one of the best in the NFL and sets a ferocious tone for this unit up front. In Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, they also have the Patriots Superbowl Cornerback duo from just a few years ago. Despite last week’s poor showing, Tennessee have held their opponents to 21 or less in 7 of 10 games this season. The Houston offence has proven to be vulnerable at times this season and this Titans defence definitely has the tools to capitalize.
Given that the Texans were favoured in Tennessee earlier this season and have now won 7 straight, I can’t help but feel as though there is some line value on them here. Whether it’s Marcus Mariota or Blaine Gabbert under centre here, I expect this ferocious Houston defensive front to have their way with a struggling Tennessee offensive line. This win can really cement Houston as a top 4 seed in the AFC and, as such, I expect them to come out with a strong sense of urgency.
Under the key numbers of both 6 and 7, I’m especially confident in Houston’s ability to win this by a touchdown or more. The versatility and dual-threat ability of QB Deshaun Watson makes this offence an ideal matchup for the usually stout Titans defence. In DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas, Watson now has a very strong receiving duo that can cause the Tennessee secondary some problems.
Under 41.5 points
Texans totals have very much trended towards the under lately, with 5 of their last 6 games falling under 45 total points. With both Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue playing better of late, the Texans have been able to control games offensively. Their defence has also been immensely strong of late, with both Watt and Clowney leading the way and disrupting opposing offences.
The Titans offence has also largely struggled this season, failing to eclipse 20 points in 7 of their games this season. Especially with the offensive line mismatch, I expect a more conservative game plan from Mike Vrabel and Co. Their run-focused offence lends itself to hard-fought and low-scoring games, a trend which I see continuing here. Ultimately, I expect this game to end in the 37-41-point range, giving us some value on the under.
First TD Scorer: Deandre Hopkins
Having firmly established himself as one of the best Wide Receivers in the NFL, I still think DeAndre Hopkins is underrated by the general public. He’s managed touchdowns in 5 straight games, setting yet another franchise record for a team that had Andre Johnson for so long. Hopkins had made the catch on over 70% of his targets this season, you can see why Deshaun Watson trusts him so much. With neither Lamar Miller or Alfred Blue being huge red-zone threats, I expect Houston to look for ‘Nuk’ early and often near the goal-line here.
Score Prediction: Houston Texans 24-16 Tennessee Titans