Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Houston Texans (1-0)
Usually there are not a lot of changes in my Power Rankings from pre-week 1 to pre-week 2. I don’t like changing projections based on one week. The biggest move, by far, this week were the Tennessee Titans. In 2011, the Titans were 8th in the NFL in opponent’s scoring. In 2012, they were 32nd and I couldn’t exactly figure out why. They were one of the true wild cards of this season for me for that reason. I projected them closer to 2012 than 2011 defensively, but they certainly looked closer to 2011 than 2012 in Pittsburgh, holding the Steelers to one late touchdown all game.
If they can continue that, they’re going to be tough this season and they certainly have the talent to. They have a deep defensive line led by Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan, who had great seasons last year. The former was phenomenal against Pittburgh and could be even better this year, in just his 3rd year in the league. Jason McCourty is a talented cornerback, while guys like Alterraun Verner, Akeem Ayers, Bernard Pollard, and Zach Brown are capable starters. The only hole in their back 7 is middle linebacker and possibly Michael Griffin’s spot at safety, depending on whether or not he can bounce back from the worst season of his career. So far, so good for him. The offense will hold them back and I don’t believe in Jake Locker, but they have a strong offensive line, a talented running back, and they can win games like they did last week if the defense continues this level of play.
Given that, I think this line is way too high at 9.5. Besides, the Texans have had a lot of trouble blowing out inferior opponents recently. Last week’s near loss to the Chargers stands out, but last season, they also had close calls with the NY Jets, Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Detroit, with 3 of 4 being touchdown games and the Buffalo game being a lot closer than the final score. Because of their 5-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, their weak schedule, and their improbable 64.3% fumble recovery rate, the Texans actually finished last season as DVOA’s 11th ranked team, 19th in weighted DVOA (weighs later games more heavily).
This is also a good spot for the Titans as they have nothing on the horizon to distract them. Houston won this division last year and is one of the most important games on their schedule, while next week’s game against San Diego looks relatively meaningless. This is opposed to Houston, who has to go to Baltimore next week. Since 2002, divisional underdogs of 7+ are 43-23 ATS before being non-divisional favorites. That just sums up the schedule related dynamic the Titans are in this week and it’s a good sign. I like the Titans’ chances to at least keep this one close.
Houston Texans 17 Tennessee Titans 13
Pick against spread: Tennessee +9.5