Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- The Titans don’t currently have any players on the COVID list; defensive tackle Naquan Jones has yet to practice this week while cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins was downgraded from a limited showing on Wednesday to a “DNP” on Thursday.
- Derrick Henry was designated for return from IR on Wednesday.
- Only defensive back Justin Reid finds himself on the COVID list for the Texans; wide receiver Chris Conley, tight end Jordan Akins, and wide receiver Chris Moore have yet to practice this week.
How Tennessee Will Try To Win ::
The Titans have really gotten things done on the defensive side of the ball over the last month of play, holding their last four opponents to only 9.75 points per game. These weren’t games against world-beater teams, but they held a Dolphins team in contention for the postseason to just three points, the likely playoff-bound 49ers to 17 points, and the fighting-for-their-lives Steelers to 19 points (not to mention the shutout against the Jags). In a game against another struggling offense (30th-ranked 15.9 points per game this year), we should expect the same macro game plan here. Said game plan involves a slow pace of play (27th overall), elevated rush rates (second-highest overall rush rate this season), a defense designed to get after the quarterback (41 sacks) through organic pressure (fourth-lowest blitz rate), hold opponents to primarily-short passing (7.7 aDOT against), and clamp down against the run (fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing backfields). That defensive game plan feels tailored precisely to their opponent this week, one that prefers to run the football and plays at a slow pace.
Derrick Henry saw his 21-day practice window opened on Wednesday this week, giving him at least a shot at returning for the season finale. The team has until 4 pm Eastern on Saturday to make that decision, but I would tentatively expect he is held out to be allowed the extra two weeks to get fully healthy for the playoffs. As in, his 21-day practice window spans all the way until the Wednesday before what would be their Divisional Round game, and they clearly can activate him earlier should they lose this week. Should Henry be held out, the primary rushing duties would fall to D’Onta Foreman, who has seen 20 or more running back opportunities in three of Tennessee’s last five games. He also saw his highest snap rate of the season last week at 65%, which came in a game with both Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols active. The matchup on the ground yields an above average 4.42 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Houston defense allowing a robust 28.0 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. The increase in snap rate for Foreman came at the direct expense of McNichols last week, and I’d expect the same this week in a game that plays to an increase to the already-high rush rates of the Titans.
The Titans pass-catcher are getting healthy at the right time, as Julio Jones’ stint on the COVID list allowed him time for his hamstring woes to heal up. The only regular pass-catcher out this week appears to be MyCole Pruitt, and even then he was only serving a modest role at tight end. Expect Tommy Hudson to see some run as the third tight end this week. It remains to be seen exactly how the snap rates will shake out for the Tennessee pass-catchers, but I would tentatively expect them to take it rather easy on AJ Brown and Julio Jones here, as each has recently returned from multi-week absences due to injury. Their Week 16 game is likeliest the best comparison, a game that saw AJ Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and Chester Rodgers all play between 50% and 74% of the offensive snaps in a loose rotation. As in, lead tight end Geoff Swaim could see the highest snap rate of all Tennessee pass-catchers here. Expect him to be joined by Anthony Firkser and the aforementioned Tommy Hudson. Houston has allowed the fourth-highest average yards per completion at 11.3 and have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.
How Houston Will Try to win ::
Houston wants to be another slow-paced, high rush rate team, checking in with a 24th-ranked situation-neutral pace of play and an above average 46% rush rate on first and second down with the score within seven points. They are also a team that will open things up in the second half of games they are trailing, bringing the fifth-fastest second-half pace of play and 12th-ranked second-half pass rate into Week 18. This is another example of a team whose motivation for winning is put in question, as a win could cost them a draft slot or two. Houston averages just 59.6 plays per game (second-lowest in the league, ahead of only Seattle), which should primarily be attributed to a combination of slow pace of play, poor offensive efficiency, and poor standing in defensive efficiency.
Rex Burkhead has played his way into a contract extension over the previous seven weeks of play, emerging as the unquestioned lead back of this backfield. He has seen 18 or more running back opportunities in four of those last seven games, but should be thought of as a “borderline yardage and touchdown back,” as the Texans simply don’t target their backfield at a high rate (as in, it’s not that Burkhead isn’t effective through the air, it’s just that this offense doesn’t send the backs on routes, meaning the majority of his targets come from broken plays). Expect Royce Freeman to serve as the primary change of pace back while David Johnson is welcomed back to serve as the primary third-down option. The matchup on the ground could not be worse, yielding a laughable 3.705 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Titans defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.
Brandin Cooks has commanded a massive 26.7% team target market share and 40.4% of the team’s available air yards, and that’s with a missed game this season. All of that to say, this pass offense has been “Brandin Cooks or bust,” and when Cooks is removed from the game, the entire Texans pass game has often failed. That said, Cooks has been viable all season in games we can project the Texans to pass more and against opponents they are likelier to achieve success against. Cooks has both working in his favor this week. Behind Cooks, Chris Conley and Niko Collins have operated as the WR2 and WR3 this season. Conley is currently listed as questionable after failing to practice at all this week, possibly opening up snaps for Danny Amendola and Chris Moore (if active, he’s also questionable). The tight end situation has remained a three-way timeshare, just now the snaps are split amongst Brevin Jordan, Pharaoh Brown, and Antony Auclair, with Jordan Akins largely being phased out. The expected range of pass attempts for quarterback Davis Mills should land in the 28-32 range, with a slight chance at more should the Texans fall behind big early.
Likeliest Game flow ::
The Titans are likely to assert themselves sooner rather than later here, with a defense built to handle exactly how the Texans would like to attack and an offense well-suited to take advantage of Houston’s shortcomings. The slow combined pace of play in the first half is likely to lead to a low-scoring half, particularly from the Texans. Similarly, the increase in expected pace of play in the second half from the Texans should lead to an additional possession or two for the Titans, a slight boost to whichever players we can project to still remain in the game should they have the game in hand. Since the Titans are highly unlikely to adjust their offensive game plan unless down by multiple scores into the second half, and since the Texans are highly unlikely to find themselves in that scenario, we should expect this likeliest scenario to carry a higher degree of certainty than other spots on the slate, particularly considering how the various game flows influence the decision-making processes of teams.
- The Titans can clinch the one-seed and only bye out of the AFC with a win.
- They can also back their way into the one-seed with losses by the Chiefs, Bengals, and Patriots.
- The Texans have long been eliminated from post season contention.
TOP PLAYS OF THE WEEKEND
SORTABLE GREEN ZONE TOUCHES
TEAM & PLAYER DK POINTS
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- Since being shut out by IND, Mills has thrown for averages of 239.3 yds, 1.5 TD, 0.5 INT vs SEA, JAC, LAC SF
- Those defenses rank as follows in pass def DVOA: 27 // 32 // 23 // 18
- TEN ranks 7th in def pass DVOA
- 9/16 QBs vs TEN have scored 2+ TDs
- 8/16 QBs have passed for 290+ yds vs TEN
- Tyrod actually beat TEN in W11: he threw for just 107 yds, but ran for 28 yds, 2 TD
- Mills’s only 5 scores over 11 DK pts have come in 22-25 L to NE, 22-38 L to LAR (down 38-0), 13-33 L to SEA, 30-16 W vs JAC, 41-29 W vs LAC
- Cooks with Mills: 4:28:1 (half) // 9:112 // 5:47 // 3:23 // 9:89 // 5:21 // 6:83:1 // 3:38 (half) // 8:101 // 7:102:2 // 7:66:1
- 60+ yd games: Cooks (8) // Conley (2) // Moore, Collins (1)
- One of Conley’s came vs LAC when Cooks missed game
- Cooks has six 20+ DK pt scores (21.2, 22.8, 23.7, 20.3, 21.1, 32.2)
- Cooks also has five sub-10 DK pt scores (9.7, 5.3, 7.1, 3.8, 8.4)
- Cooks’s 129 tg are trailed by Collins’s 53
- Targets over last four g: Cooks (11, 10, –, 11) // Collins (10, 4, 4, 5)
- TEN has allowed the most WR rec & 3rd most WR yds on the most WR tg faced
- Only ATL allowed more WR DK pts than TEN in 2020
- TEN has allowed the 2nd most WR DK pts in 2021 (40.6)
- 10 WRs vs TEN in 2021 have scored 20+ DK pts: Hopkins (26.3), Kirk (24) // Lockett (34.8), Swain (21) // Davis (24.1) // Diggs (23.9), Beasley (21.8) // Pittman (30.6) // Kupp (20.5) // Bourne (23.1) // Deebo (31.1)
- TEN has allowed 17 WR TDs
- HOU WRs with Tyrod vs TEN: Cooks (2:18) // Conley (4:37) // Collins (1:9)
- TEN has allowed the fewest RB DK pts/g (18.7) and 2nd fewest RB rush yds
- TEN has allowed just 9 RB rush TDs, 1 RB rec TD
- Rush att leader since trading Ingram (8g): Burkhead (109) // Johnson (35) // Freeman (35)
- HOU RBs vs TEN: Burkhead (18:40) // Johnson (13:18)
- HOU ranks 19th in def pass DVOA
- QBs with 20+ DK pts vs HOU: Lawrence (332:3:3) // Darnold (304, 2 rush TD) // Allen (248:2:1, 41 rush yds) // Kyler (261:3:1) // Stafford (305:3) // Russ (260:2) // Herbert (336:1:2) // Lance (249:2:1, 31 rush yds)
- Tannehill has just 3 games of 20+ DK pts in 2021, with a high of just 23.5
- Since 2020, the game scores of his 10 games of 20+ DK pts read: 46-25, 42-36, 35-41, 42-16, 41-38, 33-30, 30-24, 25-16, 27-3, 34-31
- That’s 8/10 games in which TEN scored 30+ pts, and 6/10 games in which the combined total finished over 60
- TEN offensive pts with Henry: 13 // 33 // 25 // 24 // 30 // 34 // 27 // 34
- TEN offensive pts without Henry: 21 // 23 // 13 // 13 // 20 // 13 // 20 // 34
- TEN scored just 13 points in the first HOU loss in W11
- Tannehill has passed for 300 yds in just 5 of his 33 starts since 2020
- Tannehill pass att since Henry went down: 27 // 27 // 52 // 21 // 31 // 32 // 29 // 18
- WRs with 70+ yds vs HOU: Chark (86:1), MJJ (77:1) // Moore (126) // Diggs (114), Sanders (74) // Hilton (80) // Kupp (115:1), Van (88) // Waddle (83) // Westbrook (107) // Pittman (77) // Lockett (142:1) // Aiyuk (94)
- HOU has allowed six 20+ DK pt scores to WRs
- Brown has the 3rd highest rate of targets per route run per PlayerProfiler
- Brown has four games this year with more than 5 rec: 7:91 // 8:133:1 // 10:155:1 // 11:145:1
- In those games Tanny has pass att totals of: 29, 27, 33, 29
- The RBs have rush att totals of: 20, 31, 28, 21
- The final scores of those games: 34-31 // 27-3 // 34-31 // 20-17
- Julio in those games (snap %): 3:59 (66%) // 2:38 (43%) // 0:0 (0%) // 1:7 (50%)
- TEN WRs in first HOU game: Brown (5:48) // Westbrook (7:107) // Rogers (4:41) // Fitzpatrick (3:35:1)
- 11 rush att was an individual TEN RB high in three games with Adrian Peterson
- Since cutting him::
- Foreman: 19:109 // 13:47:1 // 22:108 // 9:17:1 // 26:132:1
- Hilliard: 12:131:1 // 6:13 // 9:49 // 6:20 // 8:45:1
- McNichols: DNP // 8:16 // 6:26 // 7:31 // 2:14
- Foreman’s three 100-yd games have come against defenses ranked 7th, 27th, 13th in rush def DVOA
- HOU ranks 24th in def rush DVOA
- 23 RBs in 16 games have topped 50 total yds vs HOU
- 8 RBs have topped 90 total yds vs HOU
- Total yds from last 7 backfields vs HOU: 166 // 150 // 218 // 171 // 105 // 183 // 145