It sure seems like it has been a long time since the Cowboys beat the Texans. Nearly two weeks since the last game and it feels like the season is almost starting over again. Sure, the Cowboys are sitting at 1-2 and still have a hole to dig out of. But they are only 1/2 game out of first place in the NFC East. So a win this week could be another big step in righting the ship. And the expectation for the Cowboys this week should be a victory.
But the Titans are a dangerous team. Their offense doesn't have much of a passing attack but Chris Johnson is the most explosive running back in the NFL. Any time he touches the ball there is a real chance he will take it all the way for a touchdown. And Vince Young can really hurt you with his legs if you don't force him to stay in the pocket.
Defensively the Titans are a pretty decent unit. But what makes them tough is their relentless pass rush and their tendency to push the limits of the officiating crew. You can bet that Tony Romo will have to move around in the pocket and scramble away from the pass rush during the game. And you can bet even more that the Titans will hit the Cowboys after the whistle and do anything they can to get a rise out of the players on the offense.
The game plan for beating the Titans seems pretty simple. The offense needs to score points early and often to force the Titans to become a passing team. And the defense needs to stop the running of Chris Johnson and Vince Young at all costs. If the Titans are forced to win behind the arm of Vince Young the odds will be stacked in the Cowboys favor.
The concern I have for the game is a slow start coming off of the bye week. If the Cowboys allow the Titans to hang around in the game then Chris Johnson will be a threat all game long. And the longer they hang around the more likely it will be that Johnson will break off a long run for a touchdown. I hope the game plan for Jason Garrett is to strike early with the offense. Early points are they key to making this a one-sided game.
Another big advantage the Cowboys could have is actually in the penalty category this week. The Titans commit penalties at a high rate just like the Cowboys. But the Titans also tend to give the opposition a lot of free yards on personal foul penalties. Courtland Finnegan is the most likely Titan to do something that will cross the line. If the Cowboys can keep themselves under control they will get a few easy 15 yard gains on penalties.
I hope the Cowboys are still feeling the desperation they felt heading into the Texans game. They are still only 1-2 and have a long way to go before they can be happy with their record. And the players have all seemed to understand that in talking with the media this week.
I think the Cowboys will win this game fairly easily given the extra week to prepare for the Titans. I expect the Cowboys to jump out early and control the game from that point on. I predict a 27-13 victory for the Cowboys.