NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** The Titans face the Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans are coming off a 20-16 win over the Colts, a win that improved the team's record to 7-4.
The Texans are 4-7, and coming off a 23-16 loss to the Ravens.
This week, I caught up with John McClain, who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle. You can follow John on Twitter @McClainonNFL, and join over 135,000 others.
Here's how our conversation went…
Wyatt:** Hey John. I appreciate you taking the time. Right out of the gate, what's the mindset of the Texans, now 4-7 with five games to go?
McClain: *Well, in Deshaun Watson's six starts they were 3-3, and averaged 34 points per game. In his last five starts, they averaged 39 points per game. In his three losses, they lost by 4.2 points per game, and that included three points losses in New England and at Seattle. So he goes down, and everyone is thinking: It's time for Tom Savage to be better. It's the last year of his contract, and he has a chance to make a lot of money. And in his four starts, they are 1-3 and the offense has scored just one touchdown in three of those games, including Monday night. He is throwing too many interceptions, he has given up too many strip sacks, and their offensive line is terrible. Their running game has suffered, and they've had injuries. Now they've had bright spots. DeAndre Hopkins has been playing great – he has abused Patrick Peterson and Jimmy Smith the last two games. He has been tremendous, and he is doing it with Tom Savage. And Jadeveon Clowney has been great on defense. Hopkins and Clowney have been their two best players. *
Wyatt: I saw where linebacker Brian Cushing returned to team after his suspension. What's his status for Sunday?
McClain: *They have a one-week exemption for him, so we'll see. I know he is in great shape physically, but that is not football shape. They got back this week a rookie linebacker in Dylan Cole, and he was playing a lot until he got hurt. And then he came back against Baltimore, but he didn't play much, because they wanted to take their time getting him back in. They need all the help they can get. But Cushing has never played when he wasn't the starter. If he is in really good shape on the field, I think he'll come back and be the starter and Cole and Zach Cunningham will come off the bench. Until they watch him run around, it's just hard to know. *
Wyatt: Cunningham, of course, went to Vanderbilt. After 11 games he is fourth on the team with 43 tackles. How has he been in his rookie season?
McClain: He has been OK. They like him. Early in the season he made some plays, but you don't see him as much. I don't know if he is hitting the proverbial rookie wall or what, but you don't see him making a lot of plays. He plays, but you don't see him knocking down passes or tackling guys in the open field like some of the others. But the coaches love the guy.
Wyatt: I want to swing back to Savage for a minute. How has he been overall since replacing Watson, and can he put it together down the stretch?
McClain: *He makes bad decisions. He had two interceptions against Arizona, and both were thrown into coverage – just bad decisions. Coach (Bill) O'Brien said that – you can't make bad decisions. He makes some good ones, but he makes some bad ones. People like him, and they respect hm. He is tough. He got knocked down eight times against Baltimore. He is not mobile, and he is not going to run for yards. Every once in a while he'll roll out to the right and throw it away. I would say overall he has been a disappointment, and it's because of the turnovers. *
Wyatt: Last question here. The Texans play the Titans on Sunday, and in two weeks they face the Jaguars. Can they be a spoiler in the AFC South?
McClain: Unless Savage protects the ball, which he has been unable to do, I don't see it. They may beat San Francisco (in Houston on December 10), but I don't see them playing the role of a spoiler against the Titans or Jaguars. They play both of them on the road, and they play Indy on the road. The only one they have beaten is the Titans, and that was with Watson. So this team is a whole lot different with Savage instead of Watson. It has impacted the running game, and the passing game. So I don't see them causing either one of those teams a problem.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Houston Texans. (AP Photos, Donn Jones)