The Texans ran the ball effectively in the first matchup, getting 156 yards out of Steve Slaton, Ahman Green and Sage Rosenfels. Slaton should be fresh after the odd, middle-of-the-season break he got last week. But Indianapolis has improved quite a bit against the run since their first meeting in early October, yielding an average of 90 yards a game since then. Safety Bob Sanders missed the first game but will be part of the run-stuffing efforts this time.
Houston will need to find some running room, because if the Colts manage to put the game on Rosenfels' shoulders, he may not be equipped to handle it. He blew a 17-point lead late in the last game with three turnovers and is fresh off a four-interception game against Baltimore.
Despite injuries that have thinned them out at cornerback, the Colts have been getting good work out of safeties Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt as extra defensive backs. If Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can apply some heat, Rosenfels could be rushed into making turnovers.
Tight end Owen Daniels has been an excellent complement to receiver Andre Johnson as a pass-catcher for Houston. Daniels actually has 10 more catches than the always-dangerous Dallas Clark. For the Texans to hang in this game, Daniels will need to make a big contribution.
Houston's defense needs to minimize big plays, but history suggests it will struggle to do so. Peyton Manning has 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions in his career against Houston.
Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio, coaches out of USC who aren't big fans of one another, stoked the fires this week. Del Rio talked about how his team is looking for pebbles since it is facing Goliath and said kickoff time was moved so that the country could watch Tennessee get to 10-0. Fisher countered that the Titans amounted to underdogs on the road.
I doubt the Titans will have the pass-rush success they had in the opener, when they took David Garrard down seven times. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has admitted he tried to do too much, and with three subs playing on the offensive line, Garrard didn't have time to take the shots downfield that his coach was calling for. Still, look for the Jaguars to try to beat Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper with some double moves.
Even without a huge sack total, the Titans can still force the Jags to put the game on
Garrard's shoulders and make him string together long, methodical drives in which he can't make many mistakes. Jacksonville ran well against the horrible Lions, and the Titans have given up more than they'd like on the ground lately. Still, any confidence gained last week can be crushed in a hurry by Tennessee.
Albert Haynesworth said that keeping Garrard from large rushing gains is a key. In two of his last three games, the quarterback has contributed a significant chunk to the run totals.
Speaking of Haynesworth, how will guard Uche Nwaneri hold up working as the primary blocker of the big and agile defensive tackle? Center Brad Meester has regained some strength since returning from a biceps injury, but Cleveland's big tackle, Shaun Rogers, had a monster game against the Jags' interior guys just three weeks ago.
The weekly undefeated update: The Titans are just the 14th team since the 1970 merger to start 9-0 or better. Nine of the previous 13 teams reached the Super Bowl and six clubs came away with a championship. The Titans have won 12 straight regular-season games dating back to last season, a franchise record.