*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Titans on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
1. Fitzpatrick's Back: The last time the Texans won with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, they beat
Tennessee. The Titans are back in NRG Stadium for the first time since September 15, 2013, and Fitpatrick's the starter again at quarterback. Ryan Mallett was placed on the injured reserve Wednesday with a chest ailment, so the 10-year veteran is back in the starting position.
"A lot of it is about being the same guy every day and having confidence in yourself, preparing the same way and then going out there and doing it," Fitzpatrick said. "Staying steady I think is the biggest thing for a quarterback in this league just with so many ups and downs throughout the year."
Head coach Bill O'Brien said the time Fitzpatrick was on the sidelines while Mallett was in the game, might wind up as an unexpected benefit.
"Anytime you take a step back, another guy goes in there and plays, a guy that's played in the system, a guy that knows the system in Mallett, see how it operates with Mallett, that probably did help Fitz," O'Brien said.
When Fitzpatrick and the Texans faced the Titans in Week 8, he completed 19-of-35 passes for 227 yards. He threw a touchdown pass to Arian Foster, and wasn't intercepted.
2. Foster effect: Arian Foster had a good week of practice, in the words of O'Brien, and the running
back will be a welcome addition after being inactive the past two weeks with a groin injury. In Week 8, Foster torched the Titans for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns rushing, as well as a 5-yard touchdown catch.
"Anytime you have your full complement of players out there, meaning you have a healthy 46-man roster, it's a good thing for your team," O'Brien said. "He had a good game against these guys before."
Foster's played eight career games against Tennessee, although the first one in 2009 was exclusively on special teams. In the other seven contests, the Texans are 6-1 and he's scored a total of seven touchdowns. He's also averaged 4.4 yards per carry in those games. Foster has caught 31 passes in those seven games, and averaged 9.4 yards a reception with a pair of scores.
With him in the lineup this season, Houston's record is 4-4.**
3. Mett Show: The Texans get a second crack at rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger this Sunday.
The first time around, J.J. Watt sacked him twice and forced a fumble and D.J. Swearinger picked off a pass. But he's a player on the rise, in the view of the Texans.
"I think he's continued to improve," Watt said. "That's what you expect. He's going to continue as he grows. I do expect him to be better this game than he was against us, obviously last time being his first game."
Mettenberger and the Titans were just 2-of-12 on third down conversions in Week 8. The Texans know that success defensively, and pressuring the rookie needs to continue.
"I think he's starting to figure out coverages more and reading them and getting the ball out a lot more quicker," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said.
4. Takeaway some more: The Texans remain atop the NFL with 24 takeaways in 2014. Against the Titans in Week 8, they picked up two. They've scored 82 points off those takeaways, which is the
third-best mark in the NFL.
Since the 2011 season, the two teams have played seven times. In those seven meetings, the Titans have turned the ball over a combined 15 times. The Texans are 5-2 in that span.
Getting the ball back from Tennessee is typically a recipe for success.*
5. Big Returns: The Texans haven't had a game-breaking punt return this season. The longest of the year was a 14-yarder by Keshawn Martin. On kickoffs, Danieal Manning's got the longest of 2014 for the Texans with a 41-yarder.
Look out for a big one from either of those two this Sunday against Tennessee. *