Haynesworth, whose playing status for Sunday is unclear, has been sorely missed by the entire Titans defense in recent weeks.
The Texans' drive toward the playoffs took a hit last weekend with their loss to Cleveland. Now sitting at 5-6, the Texans have a chance to pull even in the division with this week's opponent, the Tennessee Titans, who defeated the Texans at Houston in a wild game back in October.
Head coach Jeff Fisher's squad took one on the chin last weekend with their 35-6 loss to Cincinnati. Having lost three straight games, the Titans are in desperate need of a win if they hope to remain in the playoff race.
Though still nicked up, Titans quarterback Vince Young should start on Sunday. The Houston native missed the Titans' game against the Texans earlier this season at Reliant Stadium.
Young has suffered through various leg injuries this year, limiting his effectiveness as a running threat. He has struggled as a passer, with 13 interceptions to only five touchdowns on the season. In recent weeks, Young has improved his production, throwing for over 200 in three consecutive games, but he also has thrown at least two interceptions in three of his last four games.
Young's backup is Kerry Collins, who led the Titans to their 38-36 victory in Houston earlier this season.
The Titans' running game has sputtered during their current losing streak. Starter LenDale White, who had a strong first half of the season, has not rushed for more than 50 yards in any of his last three games. The former USC standout will look to have a game similar to the one he had earlier this year in Houston when he rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown.
With rookie Chris Henry serving a suspension, Chris Brown will be White's backup. Brown has rushed 342 yards and a touchdown in reserve duty this season.
The Titans' receivers have benefited from Young's increased output over the last three weeks. Fifth-year veteran Justin Gage has emerged as the team leader in receptions (36) and yards (477), though he is not a starter.
Former Texan Eric Moulds and youngster Brandon Jones start at receiver and have been solid contributors this season. Jones has hauled in 21 passes, two for touchdowns, while Moulds has 20 receptions. Third-year man Roydell Williams, whose late-game reception set up kicker Rob Bironas' game-winning field goal over the Texans, ranks second on the team with 33 receptions for 408 yards and a touchdown.
At tight end, Young's former Texas teammate Bo Scaife is tied for the team lead in receptions with 36. Scaife is a big, athletic target for Young in the middle of the field, and has a great rapport with his fellow former Longhorn. Ben Hartsock and Ben Troupe also see plenty of action with the Titans running many multi-tight end sets.
The offensive line remains the strength of the unit. Even with starting right guard Benji Olson missing last week's game with a back injury, center Kevin Mawae, guards Jacob Bell and Eugene Amano (Olson's replacement) and tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart gave Young plenty of time to throw the football. Olson's availability for Sunday is still unknown at this time.
A big reason for the Titans' recent struggles has been the absence of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Without one of the best interior lineman in the league, the defense has struggled stopping the run, allowing more than 100 yards in each of the last three games.
Haynesworth may be healthy enough to return on Sunday, but if he cannot play, four-year veteran Randy Starks will start in his place. Third-year man Tony Brown is the other starting defensive tackle and has racked up 41 tackles and two sacks on the season.
At defensive end, the Titans have one of the fiercest pass rushers in the game in Kyle vanden Bosch, who leads the team with six sacks. Starting opposite vanden Bosch is another pass-rushing threat, Antwan Odom, with four sacks, while reserve end Travis LaBoy has registered five sacks on the year.
The talented linebacker corps is an integral part of the Titans' fifth-ranked defense. Weak side backer Keith Bullock, the self-proclaimed "Mr. Monday Night" (for his knack for making big plays on Monday Night Football) ranks second on the team with 64 tackles, while his four interceptions lead the team.
Strong side backer David Thornton's 82 tackles lead the team. Starting between the two playmakers is the steady Ryan Fowler. Reserves Gilbert Gardner, Rich Scanlon and Stephen Tulloch contribute mostly on special teams.
In the secondary, a pair of hard hitters starts at cornerback. Converted safety Cortland Finnegan's 61 tackles rank him third on the team, and he also has a sack and an interception. Finnegan teams with starting corner Nick Harper, who has 57 tackles and two interceptions, and former Florida Gator Reynaldo Hill as the top reserve.
Rookie Michael Griffin, the Titans' first-round pick in 2007, was recently named the starter at free safety over Calvin Lowry. Griffin has a nose for the football, but has yet to cause a turnover this season. Chris Hope starts at strong safety, but after suffering a concussion last week, his status for Sunday is unknown. Lowry may replace Hope if he cannot go this weekend.
Kicker Rob Bironas set an NFL record with eight field goals, including the game-winner, in the Titans' victory at Houston earlier this season. Bironas has made 26 of 28 attempts this season, and his 96 points rank him second in the league. The 56-yarder he made in Denver ranks only behind the Texans' Kris Brown (57 yards) for the longest kick this season.
Punter Chris Hentrich has struggled this season, ranking near the bottom of the league in punting average (41.1) and net average (34.9). Normally a strong directional punter, only 12 of his 66 punts have landed within the 20-yard line.
Neither of Tennessee's return specialists is a big-time threat. Kickoff returner Michael Griffin's 23.4-yard return average ranks him in the lower half of the league, while punt returner Chris Davis is also in the middle of the pack with a 10.3-yard return average.
What to Watch For
- With Vince Young's mobility limited by his leg injury, look for the Texans to force Young to beat them with his arm. If the Texans can force Young into making mistakes, as he has done more often than not this season, they stand a good chance of keeping him in check.
- If Albert Haynesworth does not play on Sunday, look for the Texans to go back to focusing on the running game. The Titans' run defense has been gouged these last few weeks without their best defensive lineman, so if Haynesworth cannot play the Texans should make running the football a priority.