With a chance to solidify the first seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans (11-5) travel to The Lone Star State to take on the Houston Texans (4-12) in the final week of the 2021 NFL regular season.
While there are several scenarios out there for clinching the top seed, the simplest is with a win Sunday in Houston. If that top spot in the conference is not inspiration in itself, maybe what happened in the previous meeting would work as well.
Back on November 21, the Texans ended the Titans’ six-game winning streak with a 22-13 win at Nissan Stadium. In an absolute downpour, Tennessee turned the ball over five times and struggled to find a way to stop Tyrod Taylor.
In this second meeting, there are some important differences to consider. For one, this game will be indoors at NRG Stadium in Houston, so do not worry about weather playing a factor. As for on the field, the Titans will see Davis Mills at quarterback. The rookie out of Stanford has started the last four games, tossing six touchdowns compared to two interceptions, and led the Texans to two wins.
On defense, Houston has struggled to stop the run, allowing 143.4 rushing yards per game, the most in the NFL. With all that being said, the fewest points the Texans have allowed this season: 13 to the Tennessee Titans back in Week 11.
Re-establishing their brand of complementary football, the Titans have won three out of the last four. Offensively, the emergence of D’Onta Foreman has been a huge help to the play action passing game. Adrian Peterson was still in the mix in the first matchup, so let’s see how the former Texan performs against his old team now that his role has increased with the Titans.
What else can be said about the job the defense continues to do? On average the last four games, the Titans have only allowed 52 rushing yards per game. Pair the run stopping with the ability to rush the passer, it was a long day for the Dolphins last week and Tennessee is hoping the same is true for the Texans.
No better way to wrap up the regular season than playing for the number one overall seed this Sunday in Houston.
Tennessee Titans (11-5) @ Houston Texans (4-12)
Game Time: 12:00 pm CDT
Location: Houston, Texas (NRG 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: Land Clark
Line: Tennessee -10.5
Over/ Under: 43
Three Things to Watch
Advantage in the Ground Game – This matchup pairs two teams that are on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to the run game. The Titans are top five in the NFL in both rushing offense and rushing defense, while Houston is last in both categories. In the last five games since the loss to the Texans, Tennessee has averaged 172.2 rushing yards per game, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, the Titans have allowed a total of 208 rushing yards in their last four games. Shutting down the Texans’ run game and forcing rookie quarterback Davis Mills to carry more of the load, while building off their own recent success on the ground with former Texan D’Onta Foreman, seems like a recipe for success for the Titans.
Taking Care of the Football – Last time these teams met a few months back, the Titans had a total of five turnovers, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing a career-high four interceptions. One area where the Texans have been pretty good is forcing turnovers. Their 17 interceptions are tied for the sixth most in the league, which has contributed to a turnover ratio of +3. A theme in all four of Houston’s victories this season is winning the turnover battle. The Texans have a turnover ratio of +10 in the four games they have won compared to -7 in their 12 losses. Looking back at the five turnovers the Titans had in the last meeting, there are multiple factors to consider. A.J. Brown left the game early with an injury, weather, and the need to take chances while trailing late in the game. Regardless, this time around Tennessee can not gift Houston with extra possessions and better field position.
Pressuring the Rookie QB – The meeting in Nashville was the 11th consecutive week the Titans had played a game to open up the season. With their bye week not taking place until the first weekend in December, one strength that weakened leading up to the break was the pass rush. Due to a combination of injuries and fatigue, the Titans were unable to pressure the passer the way we had become accustomed to seeing earlier in the year. It showed in the Houston game, as that was the first, and only, time this season that the Titans defense has not recorded a sack. Since the bye week, Tennessee has sacked the opposing quarterback 12 times, an average of four a game. The Titans struggled getting to Tyrod Taylor in the last matchup, but this time around, it will be Davis Mills in the Texans’ backfield. Let’s see if they have better luck getting after the rookie QB.
Did You Know?
- This will be the seventh time the Titans and Texans have met to conclude the regular season, and that has typically been good news for Tennessee. The previous six instances were won by the Titans, with four of those six victories taking place in Houston. This is the third season in a row that both teams meet in the final week of the regular season.
- In the meeting between these two teams back in November, wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had a career day against the Texans. The second-year receiver out of Indiana led the team with a career-high 107 receiving yards on seven receptions, which was also a career best. That performance made a major impact on his season stats, as a fifth of Westbrook-Ikhine’s receptions and a fourth of his receiving yards came on that rainy Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium.
- Entering Week 18, the Titans are ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing an average of 85.9 rushing yards per game. Having allowed just 17 more rushing yards than Baltimore, who currently leads the league in rushing defense, Tennessee could potentially finish the regular season with the best rushing defense, which they have not done since 2003. Houston averages 84.9 rushing yards per game, the fewest in the NFL.