The AFC South champion Texans (10-5) host the Titans (8-7) in Week 17. Houston won the last meeting between the two teams, 24-21, and hasn't lost at home to Tennessee since Week 17 of the 2011 campaign. Here are five things to watch when the two squads square off inside NRG Stadium at 3:25 p.m. CT. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Who's in, who's out – Houston clinched the division title last Saturday with the win at Tampa Bay. Several key players were listed as questionable on Friday's injury report after being limited in practice this week.
Receiver Will Fuller V has already been ruled out. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, receiver DeAndre Hopkins and left tackle Laremy Tusnil were among the question marks for Sunday.
Regardless of who plays, the Texans are gunning for their 11th victory of the season.
"We won the division, and so we need to go out there on Sunday and compete at a very high level against a really good football team that is coming in here ready to go," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We need to be ready to go. So, we will. We'll be ready to go and I'm sure it'll be a really good game."
The Titans, meanwhile, are in the playoffs as a Wild Card if they win this weekend. Head coach Mike Vrabel is preparing as if Houston will pull out all the stops to win.
"That's what we are fully expecting and that's what we'll get," Vrabel said. "You've only got 53 guys. It's like you make a decision on seven guys that aren't going to play and you make them inactive and you go into the game with 43 players and three specialists – 41 players, two quarterbacks, three specialists."
The last time the Titans were victorious in Houston was a situation very similar to this Sunday. Houston had clinched the AFC South, and rested many key contributors. Jake Delhomme played the bulk of the game at quarterback for Houston, and threw a touchdown pass with 14 seconds remaining in the game. It was the final pass of Delhomme's career and pulled the Texans to within a point. Houston went for two, but the ball was snapped over Delhomme's head and the 2-point try was ruled dead. An onside kick was recovered by Tennessee, and the Titans won.
2) Oh so special – The Texans special teams have been remarkable the last two weeks. Angelo Blackson's blocked a field goal try in consecutive games. Ka'imi Fairbairn's made all four of his field goal attempt and each of his five point after tries. After kickoffs and punts, opponents have started on average at their own 18.7 yard line. Six of Bryan Anger's nine punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line, and Fairbairn also dropped one out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 10.
"Guys are just taking the game plan and executing it," Blackson said. "Guys are playing with a lot of effort, and that's all you can really ask for from the special teamers."
DeAndre Carter is second in the NFL with 9.5 yards per punt return, and he elaborated on the success.
"We've got a great unit," Carter said. "Punt team, kick-off team, kick-return – we're starting to get our rhythm. Punt return, we've got great guys, core special team guys and the last two weeks we've been jelling and making big plays. Bryan has been punting the ball great all year. We just have to keep rolling next week and into the playoffs."
3) Keep it clean – The Texans won the turnover battle last week at Tampa Bay, but still gave the ball away twice in the victory. In the win over Tennessee, they triumphed despite throwing a pair of interceptions. Getting cleaner with the ball would go a long way towards helping Houston succeed.
On the year, the Texans are tied for 15th in the NFL in turnover differential, at plus-1. They have one more takeaway than they do turnovers.
In four of their last six contests, though, Houston's lost the turnover battle. In 2019 when they've won the turnover battle, they've gone 4-1. When they're even, they're 3-1. When Houston's lost the turnover battle, they've still managed to go 3-3.
When the Texans haven't turned the ball over at all in a game this year, they're 3-0. Under O'Brien, they're 17-1 when they don't commit a turnover.
4) D up Derrick – After missing last week's home loss to the Saints with a hamstring injury, running back Derrick Henry is slated to start against the Texans. In Week 15, Henry broke free for a 23-yard gain in the second quarter. On his other 20 carries, he amassed 63 yards. He entered that contest with four straight games of 100 yards or more on the ground, and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
O'Brien thinks Henry is an "excellent" running back and that the week of rest likely freshened him up.
"Big, downhill guy," O'Brien said. "He's played a lot of football this year. I'm sure that week off probably helped him be ready to go. We know that we've got a lot of respect for Derrick. We've played against him a lot and he's a tough guy. He's a tough guy to handle and we're going to have to be ready to go."
Henry's averaging 4.9 yards per carry, has rumbled for 1,329 yards, and has 13 touchdown runs.
5) Potent combo – Ryan Tannehill and rookie receiver A.J. Brown have been a dangerous duo this year. In the loss two weeks ago against Houston, Brown caught eight passes for 114 yards and a score. He's gone over 100 yards in a game in three of the last five. He's averaged 19.3 yards per catch and has 927 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019.
Gipson said Brown reminds him of NFL great Anquan Boldin, and explained what's made the rookie so special.
"Physical guy," Gipson said. "Almost reminds me of a running back with the ball in his hands. He can take the top off of a defense. It's a component to his game that people don't give him enough credit for."
Tannehill, meanwhile, has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions over the last six games, and is completing 70.7 percent of his passes. But against the Texans, he was sacked twice and threw a pick. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel explained what worked against Tannehill in Nashville.
"If you can take away some of the big plays and make him have to execute when guys are tight in coverage," Crennel said. "We were tighter in coverage than maybe we had been other games."
Check out the best Week 16 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.