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5 Things to Watch: Texans at Titans

Posted Dec 27, 2013

Drew Dougherty outlined five key storylines to follow in the season finale when the Texans face the Titans.

*Here are five things to watch when the Texans play the Titans in Nashville on Sunday at noon CT.

1. QB shuffle- Case Keenum missed last Sunday's loss to Denver because a sprained right thumb. He practiced Thursday and said he was getting ready for the start in Nashville.

"That’s how I’m preparing," Keenum said. "As long as we don’t go backwards, as far as anything, I think I feel good, feel ready to go.”

But on Friday, the second-year quarterback apparently went backwards. Interim head coach Wade Phillips said Keenum was limited in practice because of soreness, and would be a game-time decision.

So if Keenum is unable to start, Matt Schaub will. The former has started eight times in 2013, the latter has started the other seven. The two have combined to throw 19 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2013, and will look to close out this season cleanly.

2. Two tight- Rookie Ryan Griffin will make his third consecutive start at tight end on Sunday, and he'll be joined by Phillip Supernaw, who was elevated from the practice squad on Friday afternoon. Supernaw was on the team's practice squad and injured reserve in 2012, and spent time on the roster in the spring.

Griffin has been targeted a combined 11 times in the last two contests, and he's caught every one of those targets. His 11 receptions have totaled 128 yards, and he has 195 yards altogether in 2013.

"Griffin played good again, as far as a tight end being a target in the passing game," Phillips said of the rookie from Connecticut.

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison appreciated the way Griffin has seized his chance, with Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham out due to injury.

“Ryan is taking advantage of the situation that’s presented itself," Dennison said. "He’s certainly done a good job and that’s something to be said.

Supernaw rejoined the team last week as a practice squadder and the former Katy Taylor standout is thrilled to get the opportunity.

"I really don't have anything to lose," Supernaw said. "Nobody's expecting me to do anything. Going into the game with that attitude of 'nothing to lose, everything to gain' can help me open up and play and try to make something happen."

3. Andre 1,500- With 1,358 receiving yards in 2013, Andre Johnson is 142 yards shy of the 1,500 yard mark. Three other seasons he's reached that total, and to do it a fourth time would be a record. He and Marvin Harrison are the only two wide receivers to ever do so three times.

Johnson has always maintained that he's focused first on wins, and not personal accolades. And even though the Texans have suffered through a disappointing year, Johnson wants to go out with a bang.

"Nobody wants to be in this position," Johnson said. "But we made our bed so we have to lay in it, and hopefully we can get a win Sunday, and we don’t have to deal with this losing streak the whole offseason.”

Johnson's gone over the 142-yard mark three games this season, and has cracked the 100-yard mark three other times. In his career, he's had 142 yards or more on 20 different occasions. His brilliance is noted far and wide, and especially by the Titans.

“Andre’s a guy you can move around," Tennessee safety Bernard Pollard said. "He can run. He can block. He catches the ball. He makes big plays. He’s an explosive player. He understands what he can do and what he can’t do.”

4. Hopkins last stand- DeAndre Hopkins' NFL career is still very young. His finest moment as a pro came in the Week 2 win over the Titans. He finished with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. The score ended that game in overtime. But those heroics mean little to Hopkins now.

“I just want to get a win," Hopkins said. "I don’t really care what my stats are. What I did against them was 14-15 weeks ago. So I just want to go out and get a win. That’s the only thing that matters right now.”

Hopkins' rookie campaign has seen him pull down 48 receptions for 767 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Pollard on the prowl- The Titans safety spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons in Houston starting at strong safety. He left for the Ravens and won a Super Bowl ring with them last season, before heading to Tennessee in free agency. He said he's "very surprised" at the turn the Texans' season took after Week 2.

"They’ve consistently been in the playoffs playing at a high level," Pollard said. "But you have to look at it, too, anything can happen in this league. You can have a powerhouse that can lose every game the following season. Everybody’s getting paid in this league and everybody’s trying to out-coach you, out-play you."

Pollard and the Titans have struggled through a 6-9 season so far, but the veteran defender has been active with 93 total tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed.

Twitter.com/DoughertyDrew

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