The Texans return from Bye Week on a trip to Nashville

Before the Houston Texans’ farewell week last weekend, when faced with the question “What’s wrong with your football team?”, Head coach David Culley’s response would inevitably revolve around two things – revenue and penalties. In other words, if the Texans could just stop flipping the ball and commit stupid penalties, they would be a much better football team.

Of course, anyone with a working set of eyeballs and a brain knows that the Texans’ problems go so far beyond just revenue and fines that you will have to take a vacation week to document them all. So I was hoping that Culley, with a full week to “self-scout” his team, would have a little more insight into what nine weeks of Texas football has revealed.

Alas, when asked on Monday, here’s what Culley told us he learned last week:

Now what has been hidden through all the good things we have done, especially offensively, is the penalties and the turnover. That said, going forward, we must have a relentless effort in practice from our coaches, our players, every game, every training session, every meeting, to do things the right way. You eliminate these things and you see the reason why the good things are dazzled because we have bad punishments at certain times. Punish is going to happen, but some punishments are bad punishments. We’ve had some bad punishments. And then the revenue, we go back and looked at it, talked about the self-evaluation. We feel that there are probably three ball games this year if we do not have bad penalties and we do not turn the ball around, we have a chance to win the match. ”

Yep, David Culley did not learn a single thing about his team, or if he did, then he chooses not to share with us. It’s a pretty hopeless time to be a Texan fan right now.

That way, here comes the Tennessee Titans in Week 11, which right now is considered the hottest team in the AFC. However, they are without their most valuable player, running back Derrick Henry, the rest of the season, so let’s start there with a few grains of gold for Sunday afternoon’s match:

4. No Derrick Henry
The Texans’ defense has actually been a somewhat pleasant surprise this season, as they are currently around the middle of the pack (17th, to be exact) in the overall defensive DVOA (Football Outsiders efficiency measurement). The rushing defense is a bit improved over last season, but still close to the bottom of the league (27th overall), so a healthy Derrick Henry would be ready to party. In each of Henry’s last three games against the Texans, he has been away for over 200 yards, including 250 yards in the 2020 season finale. Henry tends to a foot injury, so look for Adrian Peterson, who was appointed long ago before Twitter was invented, to get the stone on Sunday. Henry’s absence will have a huge impact on Ryan Tannehill’s ability to take shots down the field.

3. It’s really more about turnover than punishment
When he returned from the hamstring injury that put him on the sidelines in six games, Texans QB Tyrod Taylor threw three interceptions against the Dolphins, and they were all of the “head scratching, eye rolling” variety. This was uncharacteristic of Taylor, who had only had one start in his career up to the point where he had even thrown more than one interception. Taylor and the Texans can not lose property and provide short fields for the Titans’ attack. Henry’s absence gives the Texans a punchers chance, and they can not admit that margin of error with silly turnovers.

2. Jeffrey Simmons is a beast
However, it’s hard enough for Taylor to move football through the air when there really is a reliable receiver on the field for the Texans (Brandin Cooks). Making it even harder is an offensive line that has struggled with pass protection all season, allowing 26 sacks. Against the dolphins, the Texans had trouble protecting Taylor because the dolphins ran heavy zero flashes as if they were boiled MADDEN players. The Titans can put pressure on Taylor by winning one-on-one with Jeffrey Simmons inside (7.5 sacks, 5 in the last two games) and Harold Landry on the edge (10 sacks). It’s going to be a long day for young blockers like center Jimmy Morrissey (second career start) and tackles Geron Christian and Charlie Heck.

1. Can the Texans score a touchdown?
It’s perhaps the most depressing sentence I’ve written all season – can the Texans score a touchdown? That, however, is a sadly relevant question, given that this is a road game and the Texans have not scored a touchdown on the road in 251:32 of playing time. That’s four full games plus most of the fourth quarter in Cleveland in Week 2. Since Week 1’s only win of the season, the Texans have scored just ten touchdowns in eight games and have averaged 14 points in the league per game for the season. It’s fair to wonder if the Texans are kept out of the end zone again on Sunday, when will David Culley move to play calling duties from OC Tim Kelly?

SPREAD: Texans +10.5
PREDICTION: Titans 27, Texans 9
SEASON RECORD: 9-0 SU, 6-3 ATS

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 06:00 to 10.00 on weekdays. Also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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