For the first time in nearly two months, the Tennessee Titans (8-2) host an AFC South opponent at Nissan Stadium, as the Houston Texans (1-8) visit Nashville this Sunday.
Thanks to a six-game winning streak, the Titans enter Week 11 atop the AFC standings with a 1 ½ game advantage on Buffalo and Baltimore and will look to build on that lead in this divisional matchup.
This might be the first meeting between these two teams this season, but they actually met in this calendar year, playing on January 3rd in Houston to wrap up the 2020 NFL regular season, with the Titans winning 41-38 on a Sam Sloman field goal that clinched the AFC South title.
Although that thriller took place in 2021, the 2021 Houston Texans are a much different team now.
Head coach David Culley is in his first season with the Texans. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Culley. He is originally from Sparta, TN and played quarterback at Vanderbilt, where he would later coach, along with Western Kentucky, Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State, and Austin Peay.
Offensively for the Texans, quarterback Tyrod Taylor prepares for his second game since returning from IR. Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson are the two primary running backs, while wide receiver Brandin Cooks continues to be one of the top targets in the Houston passing game.
The Texans defense is coming off a game in Miami in which they gave up 17 points, the fewest they have allowed all season. Let’s see if an extra week of preparation due to a bye week has any impact for this Houston defense.
As for the Titans, it will be interesting to see if this is the game they can get something going on the ground. Other than Nate Davis, who is dealing with a concussion, the offensive line is healthy and both Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman have now been with the team for a couple of weeks.
Nicknames have been flying around left and right for this Titans defense, but for this preview, I will just stick with calling them really good.
Divisional rivalries tend to always make these AFC South matchups interesting. We will just have to wait and see how this one plays out this Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Houston Texans (1-8) @ Tennessee Titans (8-2)
Game Time: 12:00 pm CDT
Location: Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, Sherree Burruss
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Tony Corrente
Line: Tennessee -10
Over/ Under: 44.5
Attending the Game?
Charitable Drive: Pet supplies for Nashville Humane Association
Giveaway: Salute to Service Rally Towels (first 30,000 fans)
12th Titan: Former Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse
National Anthem: Lainey Wilson
Halftime Performance: Floyd Reese & Jeff Fisher Ring of Honor Ceremony
Three Things to Watch
Defending Brandin Cooks – While the production by the Texans offense has been underwhelming, wide receiver Brandin Cooks has been a consistent contributor in the passing game. Tied for 7th in the league in receptions, Cooks has accounted for nearly a third of the Texans’ receiving yards. Cooks has had success against the Titans in the past, recording 11 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the season finale last year in Houston. Cooks has led Houston in receiving yards in seven of their nine games this season, so expect to see the ball in his hands early and often on Sunday.
Establishing the Ground Game – We knew there would be an adjustment period without Derrick Henry in the lineup, but it certainly did not help that the first two teams the Titans saw following Henry’s injury were the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. This matchup with the Texans seems like a good opportunity to get the ground game going. The Texans rank 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up an average of 136.9 yards per contest. Jeremy McNichols is listed on the injury report with a concussion, so it will most likely be Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman splitting carries in the Titans backfield. Look for both to find a rhythm in the running game this week after facing two of the best run stopping defenses in the league.
Fast Start – While the Titans currently own a six-game winning streak, they have not gotten off to the fastest of starts recently. In their last three games, the Titans have been outscored 20-0 in the first quarter. This trend has obviously not prevented them from winning games, but in this matchup against a Texans team that has not scored a touchdown on the road since Week Two, a good start could really dampen the spirits of a 1-8 football team. Setting the tone early could potentially result in a long day for the visitors from Houston.
Did You Know?
- At halftime on Sunday, the franchise will induct late Titans general manager Floyd Reese and former head coach Jeff Fisher as their 16th and 17th members into the Titans Ring of Honor. Reese, who spent a total of 21 seasons with the franchise, drafted 19 future Pro Bowlers while in the front office. Having built a roster that reached the AFC championship game twice, Reese accumulated 111 wins during his time as the Oilers/Titans general manager. As for Fisher, his 147 total wins as the Oiler/Titans head coach make him the winningest coach in franchise history. Winning 13 games three times (1999, 2000, 2008) during his 16 seasons as head coach, Fisher played a significant role during the franchise’s move to Tennessee, leading the team to three consecutive 8-8 seasons before a run to Super Bowl XXXIV, all while playing in four different home stadiums from 1996 to 1999.
- Wide receiver A.J. Brown has faced the Texans four times in his career and has had great performances in each of those four games. Brown has eclipsed 100 or more receiving yards in three of the four games and has found the end zone in all four meetings, scoring twice against Houston last October. In total, Brown has caught 27 passes for 447 yards, an average of 16.6 yards per reception, and five touchdowns when playing the Texans.
- Entering Sunday’s game, the Titans have won three in a row against the Houston Texans. It is the third time in the rivalry that Tennessee has won three or more consecutive games over the Texans. The Titans won the first four meetings between the two teams in 2002 and 2003 before winning seven in a row from 2005 to 2008.