Titans-Texans — Four Things to Watch For

Every Sunday during the NFL season, CBS and FOX have a pecking order with their announce teams in which the top-of-the-list pairings get the best game, and so on and so forth down the list until they run out of games. On any given Sunday, you're talking about at least one of the two networks needing up to eight different pairings to cover all the games.

CBS announce team pairings, in their pecking order, go like this:

1. Jim Nantz/Phil Simms
2. Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts
3. Greg Gumbel/Trent Green
4. Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon/
5. Spero Dedes/Solomon Wilcots
6. Andrew Catalon/Steve Beuerlein
7. Tom McCarthy or Brian Anderson/Adam Archuleta or Chris Simms
8. Brian Anderson or Carter Blackburn/Chris Simms

On Sunday, for the second straight week, the Texans will have the fifth CBS announce team, Dedes and Wilcots, calling their game with the Tennessee Titans. Oddly enough, CBS is carrying only four games that day. So yes, somehow, on a day when CBS is only carrying four games, the Texans managed to draw the FIFTH announce team. It's been that kind of year.

(NOTE: In actuality, the reason the fifth CBS team is doing a game on a day with only four CBS games is that the first team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms is only handling Thursday night, not their usual double dip of Thursday and Sunday. Pretty elementary stuff.)

Let's identify a few things to watch for in a game whose watchability is going to be highly suspect…

4. Running back roulette
Arian Foster tore his Achilles tendon firing off the line of scrimmage late in last Sunday's game against the Dolphins, and he will now be out for the year. The good news is that the team has some experience as to what life without Foster feels like, having missed out on his services for the first three games of the year. The bad news is that, well, Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes all have prominent roles in our Sundays now. I have no idea how Bill O'Brien plans on dividing up the carries, and I'm not sure if I care. If I had to guess, there are a lot more 50 pass attempt games in Brian Hoyer's future. 

3. If Hoyer gets hurt…
Hey, speaking of Hoyer, as if it weren't ultra-clear already that he is THE MAN at quarterback now, a week in which his backup missed the charter to the Dolphins game, was summarily cut two days later, and the team dragged T.J. Yates off his couch to be the new backup should make it clear that this is now Hoyer's job, and he'd probably need to intentionally throw four or five interceptions to get lifted from the game. Or he'd have to get injured, and while I'm certainly not rooting for that because 1) it's mean to root for injuries and 2) I want the Texans to win, it would be fascinating to see exactly what T.J. Yates is able to do on three days of practice and some muscle memory from last summer, like watching a teenager take the SAT hungover on ten minutes' notice. 

2. J.J. Watt versus Titan QBs
We don't know yet which quarterback will start for the Titans. Rookie Marcus Mariota was back on the practice field Wednesday taking part in drills for the first time since hurting his knee on October 18, but if he still can't go, then second-year QB Zach Mettenberger will get the third start of his young career against the Texans (0-2 last season). If Mariota is looking for advice on how to play the Texans, he may want to start with staying off of social media. Remember last season when J.J. Watt made a Mettenberger Instagram selfie on the day of the game into the equivalent of Mettenberger firing a scud missile through the Kirby side of NRG Stadium? For what it's worth, Mariota doesn't even have a Twitter account, so J.J. will have to fabricate his anger from some other source. (By the way, Watt was so vocal about his disgust for Mettenberger last season, spending several minutes discussing it after the game in Tennessee, I'm curious what his thoughts are on Ryan Mallett's missing a flight. Can we get a few minutes from J.J. on stuff that, you know, ACTUALLY MATTERS?)

1. Show up, make a play
In two of the Texans' last four games, they've trailed 28-0 and 41-0 at halftime, and while deficits like that have not been the norm, spotty (and shoddy) play has, especially in their five losses. In the aforementioned two games, against Atlanta and Miami, CBS has come out of the half with graphics for keys to the second half for the Texans like "Make a tackle" and "Show up." It's almost like analytical bullying. So if it's good enough for CBS, then it's good enough for me. Hey, Brian Cushing, how about making a few plays and getting off blocks! J.J. Watt, stop swimming linemen and getting caught upfield! Yo, tight ends, stop dropping the ball, and if you're gonna drop it, please don't spoon-feed it to the other team for a pick six! Vince Wilfork, DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! All of you… make a tackle…make a play…get your head out of your butts!

With this season's Texans, that qualifies as analysis. 

PREDICTION: Texans 20, Titans 19

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.                 

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