Texans vs. Titans: 8 Keys to the Game for Tennessee

Chad Minton@@chad_mintonCorrespondent INovember 30, 2012

Texans vs. Titans: 8 Keys to the Game for Tennessee

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    With the AFC South basically wrapped up for the Houston Texans, the Tennessee Titans have to pull off this major upset to have any hopes of getting one of the two wild card spots.

    That will be no easy task for a team that just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and is really struggling to find an identity.

    If these eight keys to the game come true, then the Titans will at least have a chance to begin an improbable run at the postseason.

Protect Jake Locker

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    A vicious sack knocked Jake Locker out in the early moments of the first game between these two teams back in Week 4.

    Who knows how close that game may have been had Locker avoided injury.

    Nonetheless, he has to make it through this game without harm. He makes the offense more dynamic and does give the Titans the best chance to win no matter who they're facing.

    Expect a much more competitive game than Week 4 as long as Locker is able to make it through the entire game.

    That will certainly be a challenge for the offensive line of the Titans with guys like J.J. Watt coming at them.

Keep Texans' Defense from Scoring

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    The Titans were just down 14-7 in the third quarter in the first meeting before allowing two defensive touchdowns to the Texans to shatter their hopes at the upset.

    That obviously can't happen this time around. The Texans' offense is already dangerous enough when it comes to putting points on the scoreboard.

    For Jake Locker, he just has to make sure he doesn't take unnecessary risks. If he does, then this defense has the ability to take pressure off the Texans' offense by putting up points.

    Locker forced a few throws against the Jags, so hopefully he's learned from those mistakes going into a much tougher matchup.

Get the Passing Game Going

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    Chad Henne proved just two weeks ago that this Texans' secondary is still a little vulnerable.

    Jake Locker has to figure out a way to do the same thing, which in return will open up space for Chris Johnson to make some big plays.

    We saw a balanced passing attack against the Jags last week with four different receivers going for more than 40 yards.

    If that same kind of balance is shown against the Texans, they'll have a chance to keep this game close until the end.

    That means getting Jared Cook involved early and often. Cook is way too talented to not get his fair share of targets every week.

Contain Andre Johnson

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    The Titans actually did a good job of containing Andre Johnson in the first meeting, which was a big reason the game was still close in the third quarter.

    We've all come to realize that the Titans' secondary is vulnerable, so the likelihood of Matt Schaub having a field day is pretty high.

    This may be the biggest challenge for the Titans, because the Texans will make adjustments from the last meeting to get Johnson more involved.

    If Johnson breaks out, the Titans will have trouble keeping up with this high-powered offense for four quarters.

Chris Johnson Can't Be a No-Show

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    Chris Johnson has really stepped up his game after rushing for less than 25 yards for four of the first five games.

    Johnson having a big day doesn't guarantee a win, but a loss will definitely be guaranteed if he is a non-factor.

    In the first meeting, Johnson had 141 yards rushing. The problem was that the offense was one-dimensional with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

    With Jake Locker back, the offense should open up more as a whole. That means Johnson's production should have a much bigger impact on the outcome.

    Johnson doesn't even have to necessarily repeat his 141-yard performance from Week 4. That would be nice, but he at least has to be a consistent factor on first and second down.

Defend Against Arian Foster as a Receiver

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    There's no doubt Arian Foster has become one of the better running backs in the NFL, but he's dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield as well.

    The Titans kept Foster to just one reception in Week 4, which was actually a close game when you take out the two defensive touchdowns by the Texans.

    However, in the 34-point blowout by the Texans last season, Foster had 119 receiving yards.

    Keeping Foster from reeling off chunks of yardage on dump off passes will go a long way at the Titans' defense getting off the field on third down.

Convert Field Goals into Touchdowns

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    The Titans have to start cashing in on more touchdowns when getting deep into the opponent's territory.

    This glaring problem was painfully clear in losses to the Jags and the Colts, two winnable games.

    There's no way the Titans keep pace with the Texans on the scoreboard if they settle for three points instead of seven.

    Rob Bironas is a great asset, but the Titans have been relying on him way too much. If Bironas is reserved to kicking a few extra points instead of field goals, then the Titans' chances will drastically improve.

Win the Time of Possession Battle

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    One of the reasons the Titans' defense has given up so many points this season is due to how often the Titans go three and out on offense.

    The Titans haven't won a game when they lost the time of possession battle all season, and they certainly can't afford to do that against arguably the AFC's best team in the Texans.

    This comes down to converting third downs, and also gaining solid yardage on first down by way of Chris Johnson.

    Until the offense starts holding onto the ball for longer periods of time, odds are the defense will continue to struggle late in games.