The Titans and Texans seem to be headed on two separate paths. Both teams finished with an awful 6-10 record, but the Texans are expected to take a huge step forward this year, while the Titans will be considered lucky to finish as well as they did last year.
The main reason for the optimism in Houston is the offense. Last year the the Texans averaged 386.6 yards per game, a very impressive mark. They were led by Matt Schaub at quarterback, Andre Johnson at wide receiver and Arian Foster at running back.
The problem for the Texans came on defense. They boasted one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history giving up 267.5 yards a game through the air. Now they have a new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, and they believe they can make a playoff push.
On the other hand, the Titans are in an awful position. The Titans started last season 5-2, but only won one game after that, against the Texans, to finish 6-10.
The offense was bad, the defense was porous and team chemistry seemed non-existent.
After the season it was announced that head coach Jeff Fisher and starting quarterback Vince Young would not be back. Now all the pressure falls on longtime Fisher assistant and new head coach, Mike Munchak, and his first-round pick, quarterback Jake Locker.
These two teams seem far from even. The Texans obviously have a better team and will obviously sweep the Titans in the division this year.
Not so fast.
While the Titans have a long way to go before they can be considered a good team, they still have some talent and that talent matches up well against the Texans.
For example Cortland Finnegan is a Pro Bowl talent for the Titans and while Andre Johnson owns him in fist fights, it's a different story when it comes to football.
In two games combined last year against Finnegan, Johnson had 15 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
The touchdown and reception numbers are good, but the fact that Johnson averaged 57 yards a game last year against the Titans isn't good. He was a non-factor and as the fight in the first game last year showed, Finnegan can get under Johnson's skin.
The Titans also did a pretty good job of shutting down Matt Schaub. Although he threw four touchdowns in the two games against the Titans last year he was very inefficient. His passer ratings were 71.4 and 64.8 in the two games respectively.
The one player that the Titans should really worry about though is Arian Foster. In the first game he rushed for 143 yards on 30 carries, but in the second game he only had 15 yards on 11 carries. I believe that Foster will be one of the most important factors in the two games next year.
Another big factor in the Titans and Texans games next year will be the secondary of the Texans. Wade Phillips believes he can improve the the unit's awful performance, but unless they get Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency I believe the improvement will be me minimal.
The Titans don't have a great deal of aerial firepower and don't know who their quarterback will be, but Kenny Britt can be a weapon no matter who is throwing to him and since these games look to be low-scoring affairs, if Kenny Britt can get one big play off it could be huge.
Another player who could turn the table for the Titans is Chris Johnson, who has a penchant for playing well against the Texans. Like Arian Foster, Johnson had one bad game and one good game in the two games last year, but unlike Foster, Johnson has an excuse. In the first game Rusty Smith was his quarterback and Smith single-handedly drove the offense into the ground.
As long as Smith isn't quarterbacking for the Titans my money is on Chris Johnson outplaying Arian Foster in this year's two games.
A lot of things can change between one year and the next in the NFL, but just from looking back at last year and looking forward to this year, I feel confident in saying that the Titans could very well sweep the Texans or at least give them a run for their money in both games.