Texans-Titans: Five matchups to watch

Texans-Titans: Five matchups to watch
September 15, 2013, 7:00 am
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The Texans will have their home opener against the Titans at 12 p.m. on Sunday.

If the Texans win, they'll improve to 2-0 for the fourth straight season and it would give them three consecutive wins against the Titans for the first time ever.

But to beat Tennessee (1-0) on Sunday, these five matchups will be key

Chris Johnson vs. Cushing, linebackers
When NFL fans mention the best running backs in the NFL, Chris Johnson's name doesn't come up anymore. Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in his second season. But he hasn't had that season again, although he's had 1,000 yards in each of the last three years.

In his career, Johnson has averaged 89.3 yards per game against the Texans.

"He’s dangerous, just as much as he was a 2,000-yard rusher, leading the league and he got the big deal," texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "I think if we don’t stop him, we’ll be in some trouble.”

Johnson ran for 70 yards on 25 carries in Week 1 for an average of 2.8 yards per carry. But that number is deceiving. With Johnson's speed, a team can contain him for most of a game before he breaks a long run for a touchdown.

Against the Texans, Brian Cushing and the linebackers will need to stop Johnson before he reaches the secondary but it will be a team effort to try to bottle him.

"He’s extremely fast and can make a play at any moment," Cushing said. "I’m not exactly sure if he’s any better, but it’s one game. I don’t think anybody can really judge. He’s got all the talent in the world; you just have to contain him.”

Chance Warmack vs. J.J. Watt
Warmack, from Alabama, was the 10th overall pick in the draft and was one of the more NFL-ready players coming out of college.

He had a nice first game and received a grade positive grade of 2.0 from ProFootballFocus. But now the rookie right guard has a much more difficult challenge this week. He gets to go against the reigning defensive player of the year. Sure, Warmack will have help but it's going to be a very good matchup.

“Obviously, they have a first-round pick and then they went out and picked up (G Andy) Levitre," Watt said. "They made some good moves to help bolster their offensive line. There are only a couple preseason games and one regular season game. They’ve got some good players and it’s always a good challenge. Every week’s a good challenge.”

Andre Johnson vs. Alterraun Verner, Jason McCourty
The Texans will line Johnson up on both sides of the football and it's likely he'll get a crack at both of the Titans' corners.

The Titans gave up only 194 yards to the Steelers in Week 1 and 163 of them came through the air. Johnson had 12 catches for 146 yards in the Texans opener.

"I think I’ve seen it all with him now, but he continues to just go out and make plays," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "The type of camp he’s had, the type of offseason, in my seven years, probably the best I’ve seen out of him. Just watching him go to work, I told him before the game, ‘We’re going to be the aggressors. We’re going to go make some plays.’ We’re all on the same page all the time with one another. He never ceases to amaze me, but, at the same time, what he does out there, he makes it look so routine every day.”

In Johnson's career, he's averaged 69.8 yards per game against the Titans but has nine touchdowns, the most he has against any team.

Arian Foster vs. Moise Fokou
Much of the talk this week has been about Foster and Tate's splitting carries. Although Foster had double the amount of carries Tate had in the opener, head coach Gary Kubiak said he'd like to get the carries more even. It's hard to see that happening unless Foster is very ineffective.

“I mean, yeah. That has to be OK with me," Foster said about Kubiak's plan with carries. "Like I said, we’re chess pieces. Coach makes the final ruling, but as a competitor, I’ve been in this League, I felt that I’ve played well throughout my tenure here. You want to be out there. You feel like you’ve earned that right to be out there. That’s just where the frustration comes from.”

Fokou is the new middle linebacker in the Titans' 4-3. He spent last season with the Colts, so the Texans should know him well. He had a nice first game.

Jurrell Casey vs. Wade Smith
Casey made some noise in the Titans' Week 1 win against the Steelers, recording two sacks, and hasn't been quiet since.

"We're going to go out there and make sure we put our foot up their (butt)," Casey told ESPN. "Sorry about the cuss word."

Smith will be charged with stopping the defensive tackle. He'll of course have some help but one of the most veteran linemen in the league might have something to prove against a young guy who likes to talk.

Casey did line up on both sides in the opener, so the Texans will probably see him on both sides too. If he lines up on the left, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Derek Newton will have to deal with him.