NFL Nation: Kevin Walter Owen Daniels
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) at Tennessee Titans (12-2), 1 p.m. ET
The Titans have drifted away from their run-at-all-cost mindset while losing two of their last four. A game can unfold in a way that forces them out of it, but they are usually pretty stubborn, even if a good share of the carries are for minimal gains.
Much has been made about how the offensive line will handle Pittsburgh's zone blitzing 3-4 front. Tennessee's is a cerebral line keyed by left tackle Michael Roos and center Kevin Mawae, and how they sort through the unexpected to block for Chris Johnson and LenDale White and to buy time for Kerry Collins will be crucial.
Collins has been starting especially slow and while the Titans don't panic, they don't want a bad first quarter to leave them with a hole to climb out of. Tight end Bo Scaife hasn't been as involved in recent weeks as he was earlier in the season. It would seem the Titans could look to find some short Collins-to-Scaife connections early to create rhythm and get the offense started.
Pittsburgh is the league's top scoring defense (13.7 a game) and the Titans are second (14.1). If it's a field-goal-at-the-end kind of game both teams have a clutch guy who's only missed three -- Jeff Reed is 26 of 29, with misses from 40, 45 and 51 yards while Rob Bironas is 28 of 31 having missed from 43, 47 and 49 yards.
I feel like the Titans will need a big play on defense or special teams that flips the field to help the offense get to the end zone.
Houston Texans (7-7) at Oakland Raiders (3-11), 4:05 p.m. ET
Once again the question is whether the Texans can sustain their quality play after an emotional win, and this time with a trip to the West Coast.
If Oakland's stellar cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha shadows Andre Johnson, I suspect the Texans will be willing to look elsewhere and Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels could be in line for big days against the 26th pass defense in the NFL. Johnson, though, has averaged 17.7 yards against the Raiders in two games.
Still, Steve Slaton may be the key -- he has three 100-yard games in a row during which he's averaging almost 5 yards a carry. That could fit nicely against the Raiders run defense, which is used to allowing 4.7.
Houston cannot afford to be undone on special teams, where it has had its share of gaffes this season and has not been a very good kick coverage unit. They will be on high alert with Justin Miller fielding kickoffs, as he has returns for touchdowns in consecutive games.