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Five things to watch: Texans at Titans


Here are five things to watch for when the Texans (5-8) take on the Tennessee Titans (5-8) in a divisional matchup at LP Field on Sunday. Kickoff is at noon CT.

The Texans are 5-12 all-time against the Titans but have won three of the last four games in the series. They shut out the Titans 20-0 at Reliant Stadium in Week 12.

1. Johnson vs. Finnegan: Much of the national and local media attention surrounding this game has focused on "Round 2" between Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan, who were ejected and later fined by the NFL for a fourth-quarter fistfight in Week 12.

Both players have diffused the talk about their fight this week. Johnson said that it's the last thing on his mind, and Finnegan said he will seek out Johnson before the game to apologize.

"When we talk, we'll squash it there and that's pretty much it," Johnson said.

Finnegan said that he tried to apologize to Johnson through a third party this week.

"It just shows that he thought about what happened," Johnson said. "Like I've said, I regretted the whole situation. I don't think that has changed the way I am. I try to go out and play football the right way. I know what type of player he is. He's a feisty guy. He plays very hard. If you look at other games he's been in, sometimes he gets guys out of their game. When we played them last time, he got me out of my mind and got me ejected. That is something that you as a player have to control, and I'll do that on Sunday."

Johnson had nine catches for 56 yards and a touchdown before getting ejected in Week 12. He has scored in four consecutive games against Finnegan and the Titans, and he ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards (1,158) this season after racking up 289 yards in the last two weeks.

2. Foster's encore: Texans running back Arian Foster outgained the Titans by himself in Week 12, with 218 total yards (143 rushing, 75 receiving) to the Titans' team total of 162.

The league leader in rushing yards (1,330), yards from scrimmage (1,834), rushing touchdowns (13) and total touchdowns (15), Foster is coming off a 100-yard game against the Ravens on Monday Night Football. He was just the third player all season to pass the century mark against Baltimore's top-10 defense.

The Titans have allowed 120.6 rushing yards per game (21st in the league) and have been hit hard by injuries along the defensive line. Just this week, they placed defensive tackle Tony Brown and defensive end Dave Ball on injured reserve. The Titans plucked rookie defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard off the Texans' practice squad and plan to make him active on Sunday.

This will be Foster's first game in the Volunteer State since finishing his college career at the University of Tennessee in 2008.

3. Different team: The Texans had their best defensive performance of the season when they faced the Titans three weeks ago, but that was with rookie quarterback Rusty Smith making his first-career start. Smith threw three interceptions and finished with a 26.7 passer rating. He returned to the bench a week later with Kerry Collins returning from a calf injury.

Collins is a 16th-year veteran who needs 331 yards to become the 12th quarterback in NFL history with 40,000 career passing yards. Last week against the Colts, he was 28-of-39 for 244 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

The Texans' 32nd-ranked passing defense will have another challenge that it didn't face in Week 12 in wide receiver Kenny Britt. The 2009 first-round pick had seven touchdowns in the first seven games this season, helping the Titans to a 5-2 record before he injured his hamstring against the Chargers in Week 8. Britt returned from the injury last week and caught four passes for 39 yards.

4. Shutting down CJ2K?: The presence of Britt and Collins will make it harder for the Texans to key on running back Chris Johnson, whom they shut down in their previous meeting.

Johnson had a career-low five rushing yards on seven carries in that game, along with two catches for one yard. Texans linebacker Brian Cushing had one of his best games of the year with four tackles for loss.

It was a stark contrast to Johnson's two games against the Texans in 2009. On his way to a 2,006-yard season and the league rushing title, he had 197 rushing yards in Week 2 in Nashville and 151 yards in Week 11 in Houston.

Johnson had 22 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last week, his seventh 100-yard rushing game this season.

5. The new guys: The Texans will get a look at several young players after placing Mario Williams, Mike Brisiel and David Anderson on injured reserve this week.

Tim Jamison and Mark Anderson will likely rotate at defensive end in place of Williams, a two-time Pro Bowler who had a team-high 8.5 sacks. Defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, a third-year pro signed from the Saints' practice squad this week, also will be active.

Antoine Caldwell will start at right guard in place of Brisiel. A third-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2009, Caldwell rotated with Brisiel at the beginning of the season before Brisiel won the starting job.

Rookie wide receiver Dorin Dickerson will get his first chance to play on offense with Anderson out. Undrafted rookie Derrick Townsel will play if the Texans use five wide receivers.

Dickerson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh, has been active in only four games this season after transitioning from the tight end position in college.

"I think he's progressed a whole lot from when he first got here," said Andre Johnson, whom Dickerson has watched closely in practice this season. "You could tell that he's learned a lot, and day-by-day he's getting better and better. He hasn't really ever played the receiver position, so it'll be exciting to see him go out there and get to play."

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