On Sunday, the Texans and the Titans will face one another for the second time in three weeks. Since that first meeting, the Texans clinched the AFC South for the fourth time in five years and the Titans lost two straight at home to the South champions in both conferences (Texans and Saints). So, the Texans are in the dance and with a win, the Titans will earn their way in as the sixth seed and second wild card entrant.
So, this one still has plenty of cache and the Texans could move up in seeding with a win over the Titans and a Chiefs loss. As such, there is plenty of value in a win for the Texans, but the "gotta have it" pressure is certainly on the other sideline. A Texans win could move up their seeding, but no matter what happens, they know they're playing more football at home the following week on wild card weekend. On the other hand, the Titans could be playing their final football game of the 2019 season on Sunday; so, yeah, there's plenty of do or die pressure on Mike Vrabel's bunch.
The Texans have the trend on their side as they've not lost to Tennessee since 2011 when the Texans clinched the division and locked in their seed before a Week 17 matchup at NRG Stadium. The Texans started rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, who ceded the position to longtime veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme to protect Yates as the Texans got ready for the playoffs. The Texans nearly pulled off the win but that's the last time the Titans beat the Texans in Houston. If it happens again, the Titans will head into the playoffs for the second time in three years. If the Texans win, the Titans could still find a way in, but the math is convoluted to say the least.
Without further ado, let's get to know the Tennessee Titans... again.
2019 Schedule - Record 8-7
W, @ Cleveland Browns 43-13
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-17
L, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 20-7
W, @ Atlanta Falcons 24-10
L, Buffalo Bills 14-7
L, @ Denver Broncos 16-0
W, Los Angeles Chargers 23-20
W, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-23
L, @ Carolina Panthers 30-20
W, Kansas City Chiefs 35-32
W, Jacksonville Jaguars 42-20
W, @ Indianapolis Colts 31-17
W, @ Oakland Raiders 42-21
L, Houston Texans 24-21
L, New Orleans Saints 38-28
Week 17 - @ Houston Texans
Titans Offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 131.9 ypg (6th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 224.0 ypg (22nd)
Total offense per game - 355.9 ypg (15th)
Turnovers lost - 17 (8 INT, 9 fumbles lost)
Projected Titans starting offense for Sunday afternoon's game vs. Texans:
QB - RYAN TANNEHILL
RB - Derrick Henry
FB - KHARI BLASINGAME (rookie)
WR - A.J. BROWN (rookie)
WR - Corey Davis
**WR - Tajae Sharpe OR ADAM HUMPHRIES (If starting in 3-WR set)
TE - Jonnu Smith
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - RODGER SAFFOLD
C - Ben Jones
RG - NATE DAVIS (rookie)
RT - Jack Conklin
Other Key Offensive Pieces:
WR - Kalif Raymond
TE - MyCole Pruitt
TE - Anthony Firkser
OT - Dennis Kelly
RB - Dion Lewis
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to Stopping the Titans Offense:
1. Tight end Jonnu Smith is turning into a poor man's George Kittle (49ers) and his ability to run after the catch is stunningly effective. The Texans must find a way to limit his yards after catch (or after the toss).
2. Wide receiver A.J. Brown is also a problem and the Texans will need to find a way to limit his targets.
3. Derrick Henry will run with his hair on fire with all that is on the line in this game - eliminate his downhill running lanes.
4. Get to quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a four man rush
5. Repeat steps 1-4.
Titans Defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 104.2 ypg (11th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 259.2 ypg (24th)
Total offense allowed per game - 363.4 ypg (22nd)
Turnovers generated - 22 (13 INT, 9 fumble recoveries - Titans are +5 in TO margin)
Projected Titans starting defense for Sunday afternoon's game vs. Texans:
DE - Jurrell Casey
NT - DaQuan Jones
DT - JEFFERY SIMMONS (rookie)
DE/OLB - Harold Landry
ILB - Rashaan Evans
ILB - Jayon Brown
Nickel/CB - Logan Ryan
CB - Adoree Jackson/TRAMAINE BROCK
S - Kevin Byard
S - Kenny Vaccaro/AMANI HOOKER
CB - LeShaun Sims
Other Key Defensive Pieces:
LB - Kamalei Correa
S - Dane Cruikshank
DT - Austin Johnson
CB - Tye Smith
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to Winning vs. the Titans Defense:
1. Pound the rock right at the Titans interior and get them to either send additional help into the box (or suffer the run game consequences).
2. If the Titans choose to play nickel the entire game, then repeat No. 1.
3. Find the holes in zone coverage and get rid of the ball on time without a guy like outside linebacker Harold Landry creating havoc.
4. Don't let safety Kevin Byard, in particular, get involved in the coverage. Deshaun Watson must use his eyes to keep Byard from "floating" in the middle or freelancing to find the football in the air.
5. Expect a good dose of deception in the secondary. Byard has a habit of showing man coverage at the line of scrimmage and then sprinting all the way through the middle of the field to cover the deep middle. Can the Texans offense exploit him when he's kind of brazen with his disguises?
Check out the best Week 16 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.