NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Colts (3-4) lead the AFC South, but the Texans (2-5) and Titans (1-5) are right behind them, both in desperate need of a win.
The Titans will be looking for an offensive spark in Houston this week. On Sunday, the defense kept the Titans in the game against the Falcons, but it wasn't enough in a 10-7 loss.
The Texans (2-5) are coming off a lopsided loss to the Dolphins, and will be looking to bounce back on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Here's a look at five keys/things to watch in Sunday's game:
With Marcus Mariota out, quarterback Zach Mettenberger is back in the saddle for the Titans. Mettenberger had moments when he really looked good last week. He guided a two-minute drive at the end of the first half, and delivered the ball to a number of targets throughout the contest. He has a strong arm, and can spin it with the best of them. But he has to take care of the football at critical times. Mettenberger was picked off twice against at Atlanta, and both were killer turnovers.
Protect the QB
Mettenberger was sacked just once last week, and that was a great sign considering he was sacked 18 times in his six starts last season. From the look of things, he's moving a lot better in the pocket. The Texans, with two-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, provide a serious threat. Watt had two sacks last week, while fellow defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney had one. The Titans will need to be solid up from to give Mettenberger time – and keep him from getting hit.
The Texans fell behind 41-0 to the Dolphins last week, and they trailed 42-0 to the Falcons in a game earlier this season. Needless to say, they've been slow out of the gate. Overall, the Texans have been outscored 135-39 in the first half this season. The Titans have had their issues as well. In fact, the Titans haven't scored a touchdown in the first quarter since the opener at Tampa Bay, and they've been outscored 31-3 since. The Titans need to generate some energy and play well early.
Keep DeAndre in check
The Texans don't miss veteran receiver Andre Johnson because they have a dynamic player in receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who already has 58 catches for 776 yards and five touchdowns on the season. With Perrish Cox out with a hamstring injury, the Titans will be short-handed trying to slow Hopkins down. Still, veteran Jason McCourty is expected to play, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh are coming off solid games. Houston's other top WR: former Titan Nate Washington.
Run the ball
Mettenberger should be able to have success throwing the football – if he has time. The Texans have already surrendered 16 touchdowns on the season, and they're banged up in the secondary. Establishing the run will also be key in this one, too, since it would slow Houston's pass rush down. The Texans have had some issues stopping the inside runs, and that's where Titans running back Antonio Andrews is comfortable lowering his shoulder pads and running.