It wasn't supposed to be like this. After the Texans crushed the Titans 57-14 in the most dominating victory in the history of the franchise, winning the rematch seemed like another bump in the road.
But, my how things have changed.
Houston goes into the game without these players who participated in part one – J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Christian Covington, Ryan Griffin, Chris Clark, Brennan Scarlett and, of course, Deshaun Watson.
When the schedule dropped in April, we all saw that three division road games fell in December. What you didn't see was a massive amount of injuries and other factors leading to a three game deficit with five to go.
The situation is dire and the Texans are faced with the knowledge that one more loss clinches their first non-winning season since the meltdown of 2013.
By now you're thinking 'Wait, isn't Vandermeer supposed to fire me up for the game?'
Give it a minute.
This frustrating year, even with the injuries, could be a whole lot different if the Texans had just split in four games that were well within their grasp; New England, Seattle, Indy and Baltimore. You're not going to win them all but two of those 'close ones' would have them smack dab in the playoff hunt with a big opportunity entering the money month of the regular season.
But I'm here to tell you to put those thoughts away for now. Take a cue from the squad itself. No one in the building is giving up. Of course they know their long term 2017 goals could barely register a blip on an EEG monitor. But they have an appointment in Nashville at noon Sunday and they're planning to bring everything they can summon to sweep the season series.
After all, this current version of the Texans knows they can at least hang with this team. And if they clean up a few things, they can arrange a happy plane ride home. Those things would include eliminating costly turnovers and finding a way to get some of their own.
It's important to note that no one is throwing a parade in Nashville for their hometown team just yet. There's an uneasy feeling as the Titans have yet to find a groove. Marcus Mariota is upside down in the TD to interception ratio. They had to overcome two picks and a late deficit to nip the Colts on the road last week.
There's also the thing about the rivalry. The Titans huddled on the Texans logo prior to the game in week four before the Texans demolished them. There were a lot of added emotions. This one should be chippy and fun.
As far as the standings, the Texans will put the blinders on and go full throttle between the lines. They also know if they can string together some good performances, things could look a whole lot prettier. It all starts with Sunday against their biggest rival.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 12/29/2020)