(5-5, 5-5 ATS)
(4-6, 4-6 ATS)
Reliant Stadium will be the sight of Sunday afternoon’s critical AFC South battle, as the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans battle to stay out of the gutter in the division and to start the long climb back into the playoff picture.
The good news for the Titans in this one is that they could reasonably be in first place in the division when this week is said and done, as both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts, who are just a game in front of them, have very tough games to play. The bad news is that there really aren’t any good quarterback options for the team to use. QB Rusty Smith is going to get his first career start in NFL betting action, something that isn’t normally a good thing to hear, especially in Week 12 of the season. QB Vince Young has been put on IR, while QB Kerry Collins is still listed as questionable, yet highly doubtful with a calf strain. That means that Houston’s porous secondary will get at least a bit of a breather in this one. However, the RB Chris Johnson train is just getting ready to pull out of the station, and it will be up to the Texans to find a way to stop him if they have any chance of pulling this one off. Johnson already has 216 runs and 25 catches this year, and he has accounted for 1,071 yards and nine TDs in total. Johnson felt like he did that in just two games last year against Houston, as he absolutely tormented his divisional rivals with two mammoth games.
The Texans are in big trouble this year, as they are 4-6 and need some real help to get back into the playoff race. HC Gary Kubiak is probably on the verge of getting fired as soon as the team is eliminated from postseason contention, but there is still some reason to smile. Houston knows that it is going to get its chance in division to shine, as it has three more games against AFC South foes, and it also knows that the Colts have a heck of a schedule in front of them. Winning this division isn’t beyond the Texans right now, but they need to kick it into gear and do it right now. Offensively, we know that things could be better, but they could be significantly worse as well. This is the most well balanced team that Houston has ever had. It has the league’s top rusher in RB Arian Foster, who has 1,004 yards on the ground on the campaign, and the combination of QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson is always trendy to go off for a huge game. The problem are all defensive, where the Texans are allowing 408.8 yards per game and 28.7 points per game, both of which are the worst mark for any team in the AFC.
If Houston thinks it has any chance of being any more than a middle of the road team, this is a game that it just has to win. The Texans cannot mess around with Smith and the Titans, or Johnson will give them the horns. Look for Houston to at least remotely contain Johnson for long enough to pull ahead, and once Smith has to throw the football, the hosts will pull away.
Pro Football Free Pick: Houston Texans -6.5