The Tennessee Titans head into their regular-season finale with slim hopes of earning the AFC's final wild-card berth. While the Houston Texans have nothing to gain in terms of playoff seeding, don't expect them to just roll over for the Titans.
The early spread on this game is Titans (-1). Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for in pick 'em leagues. All lines from Y! Sports and injury reports from CBS Sports as of December 26, 2011. Always update yourselves with injury lines because they'll change throughout the week. Please note that ATS means "Against the spread."
Personal Picks Record (Straights Picks Only, Not Spreads!)
Tennessee Titans 11-4
Houston Texans 9-6
DE William Hayes, WR Lavelle Hawkins, WR Andre Johnson, DC Wade Phillips (Health)
Keys to the Game
- Can the Titans contain Arian Foster and Ben Tate?
- How will the Texans respond after their loss to the Indianapolis Colts?
- The performance of Matt Hasselbeck and his receivers
- Time of possession
- Will Chris Johnson give the Titans anything or will they be one-dimensional?
- How aggressive will the Texans be since their playoff seeding can't change?
- Will the Titans show some passion or will they be flat as they have been in three of the past four halves?
- The availability of Andre Johnson and Wade Phillips for the Texans. Both are expected to return.
- The Titans' pass rush against third-string quarterback T.J. Yates
The Houston Texans have already clinched the No. 3 seed in the AFC. Their playoff seeding cannot be affected in any way with the result of this game. The only reasons that they'd give full effort are to get Andre Johnson some more reps with T.J. Yates, to end a two-game losing streak and to make sure they don't play the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round.
The Texans won the first meeting at L.P. Field, 41-7. This was before the injury to Matt Schuab. Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 219 rushing yards while Foster added another 119 yards receiving (including a 78-yard touchdown reception on a broken play). The Titans have had difficulty with containing running backs all season. That's proven with their 24th-ranked run defense.
The one part of me thinks that the combination of the Texans' run offense, smothering defense and home-field advantage will make life a living hell for the Titans. At the same time, I'm not confident in picking a team in a divisional rivalry game if I'm not certain about them going 100-percent. While I could see their offense trying to tune up for the postseason, I'd question how aggressive their defense will be.
This is one of those Week 17 games that you should avoid because it's hard to judge what the Texans will do (unless you trust coach-speak). Even if Texans head coach Gary Kubiak decides to play all his starters, it only takes one injury for him to start getting conservative in the second half.
I guess I'll go with the Texans after that first meeting. I'm kind of sour on the Titans after their past two performances against inferior opponents. I definitely wouldn't put money on it though.
Against the Spread: Houston Texans (+1)
Straight: Houston Texans 20, Tennessee Titans 17
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-1988 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-2001 and for approximately eight months in 2009-2010 while completing a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.
More from Yahoo! Contributor NetworkFive Players that the Chicago Cubs Should Trade Before 2012 Spring Training: Fan's Wish List