Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans

Titans must pressure Deshaun Watson if they plan to beat Texans

Two AFC South teams will try to avoid an 0-2 start in Week 2, as the Houston Texans travel to take on the Tennessee Titans.

The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans both lost in Week 1, by matching 27-20 scores to the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots respectively. History says an 0-2 start is close to a death knell for a team’s playoff hopes, so another loss would not be ideal.

Deshaun Watson had bad game in Week 1, so he’ll be looking to rebound against Tennessee this week. He threw for 283 yards with five total touchdowns in his one start against the Titans last year, so having that as a reference point should help.

Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota also struggled in the season opener, going 9-for-16 for 103 yards and two interceptions before leaving the game with an elbow injury. If he can’t go, Blaine Gabbert would get the start on Sunday for the Titans.

The Titans will for sure be without tight end Delanie Walker though, as he suffered a dislocated ankle in Week 1 and will miss the rest of the season. Jonnu Smith, a third-round pick in 2017, will step as Tennessee’s No. 1 tight end. Left tackle Taylor Lewan left the game against Miami with a concussion, so his status for Sunday is in doubt (Lewan did not practice Wednesday).

Mariota threw at practice on Wednesday, however limited it may have been, and he was declared good to go for Sunday’s game (barring a setback, or course) by Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.

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A key for the Titans on Sunday will be to put pressure on Watson, as they didn’t do in last year’s matchup. The Patriots did it well in Week 1, and Vrabel’s influence on Tennessee’s defensive philosophy was on display last week.

NextGen Stats gave Tennessee the second-best pressure rate (41.4 percent) in the league last week against the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill (41.4 percent). Who was No. 1? New England, who pressured Watson on 23 of his 42 dropbacks (54.7 percent, also the highest pressure rate a quarterback has faced in the last two seasons).

With how dramatically his numbers drop-off against pressure, which is pretty odd for a mobile quarterback such as he is, the book is out on Watson. It’s up to him to improve when the heat is put on.

This AFC South battle will tilt on the quarterbacks, and more specifically which signal caller can come up big at a critical moment (or avoid a critical mistake). Watson is the safer bet there, presumably fully healthy as he shakes off some ruts coming off  a torn ACL, while Mariota will be operating with an injured throwing elbow.

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