Win, and get in.
That’s as simple as the Titans’ playoff scenario gets going into Sunday’s regular season finale against the Houston Texans after an embarrassing loss to Green Bay in primetime last week. A win against the 4-11 Texans would clinch the AFC South and a home playoff game for the first time in 12 years. A loss could be disastrous, but the Titans could still get in as a Wild Card team if the Ravens fall to the Bengals or the Dolphins lose to the Bills.
This is not the Texans team that was in Nashville in mid-October and fell to the Titans 42-36 in overtime. Will Fuller, who tore up the Titans with 123 yards and a touchdown in that game is no longer playing this season after being suspended for PED use. The Texans’ defense has somehow gotten worse over the course of the season, giving up over 411 yards per game – third worst in the NFL. Deshaun Watson will play but may be hampered by an elbow injury he suffered last week. The Titans have everything in front of them in Week 17, and there are no excuses for a potential slip-up in Houston.
With that said, what should Titans fans keep their eyes on this Sunday?
Three things to watch:
Deshaun Watson: Watson is quite literally the only way the Texans could upset the Titans. A monster game from the Clemson product who leads the NFL in yards-per-attempt with 8.8 can keep the Texans in this game. The Titans defense looked inept on Sunday and allowed Aaron Rodgers to have his way en route to a 40-14 win in the snow. Like the Texans, the Titans’ defense is one of the worst in the NFL right now, allowing 394 yards and over 26 points per game. This unit could put a low ceiling on the Titans’ playoff success this season but should be able to do enough to win on Sunday. Finding a way to contain Watson early while building a lead, and making the Texans coaching staff reconsider playing their franchise quarterback in a meaningless game would end this one in a hurry.
Derrick Henry: In the last two games against Houston, Henry has averaged 211.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. Having locked up back-to-back rushing titles, Henry would need 223 yards on Sunday to hit the 2,000-yard mark for the season. It probably will not happen – assuming the Titans take care of business early and can rest Henry in the second half – but the fact that it is feasible he does reach that mark is insane. If Henry does his thing, and Tannehill takes advantage of it on the play-action like he has all season, the Titans should have zero issues against the second-worst run defense in the league.
JJ Watt vs David Quessenberry: By now, everyone has seen JJ Watt’s postgame speech during his press conference after Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, criticizing the effort of his teammates. I don’t buy that this is going to galvanize a 4-11 team playing under an interim head coach, but I certainly do expect Watt’s best on Sunday. Although he is having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career with only five sacks, Watt will be a handful for Titans left tackle David Quessenberry and could be the only bright spot for the Texans on defense.
The Titans win if….
In the midst of a terrible season, Deshaun Watson is having a career year. If the Titans keep him from taking over the game and take care of business on offense like they should, this team will be AFC South champs.
Last week, this offense had its lowest point total of the season in a 40-14 loss in Green Bay. Tannehill and company need to take advantage of a dreadful defense and have a big bounce back performance heading into the postseason. If the offense can accomplish what they are capable of, this game could be over by halftime.
Tennessee Titans (-7.5) at Houston Texans
Kickoff: 3:25 pm
Location: Houston, Texas (NRG Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Greg Gumbel, Rich Gannon, Amanda Balionis
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Shawn Hochuli
Weather: Sunny, high of 64 and low of 45