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  • The Texans have won seven straight games, but their former defensive coordinator comes to town with a plan to shut them down.
By Andy Benoit
November 25, 2018

Three things to know before the Titans (5-5) visit the Texans (7-3) on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

1. Tennessee’s defense is at its best when showing a pressure look before the snap and dropping into different zone coverages after it. This is what it did to embarrass Tom Brady and the Patriots two weeks ago. The beauty of this plan is you dictate the offense’s protection and then force the quarterback to hold the ball a split second longer as he processes which potential rushers are dropping and into what voids. Tennessee’s edge players Derrick Morgan (when healthy) and especially Brian Orakpo are quality zone droppers, and Tennessee’s would-be underneath defenders, young linebackers Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans, are becoming capable pass rushers. That’s a lot of versatility for Deshaun Watson to sort through. And you can bet he’ll have to; if you show pressure, the Texans, who don’t trust their offensive tackles, will go with a six-or seven-man protection. That can give zone-dropping Tennessee as much as a seven-on-three advantage in the coverage numbers.

GRAMLING: Texans-Titans betting preview

2. Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel, who spent the last four years in Houston as linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator, is known for his overwhelming attention to detail. You can bet he knows every little thing that his former Houston defenders don’t want to face. It will be interesting to see how Tennessee’s offense attacks individual Houston players, including the unavoidable J.J. Watt.

3. DeAndre Hopkins is the most physical receiver in football. He’s so comfortable with arm-swipe moves that he often SEEKS contact from defenders. Even so, Tennessee’s best course is to fight fire with fire and guard Hopkins with handsy press-corner Logan Ryan. That’s what Tennessee did last year in Week 13, with Ryan getting the better of that matchup.

Bold Prediction: These are two heavyweight playmaking defenses. The one with the highest combination of sacks and turnovers will win the game.

Score Prediction: Titans 17, Texans 16

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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