NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium. Here's a look at five things to watch in Sunday's game:
With starting quarterback Marcus Mariota sidelined, Zach Mettenberger will make his ninth career start. Mettenberger knows the Texans well. Because of injuries at the position during the past two seasons, it will be Mettenberger's fourth start against the Texans. The Titans are due with Mettenberger – he's 0-8 as a starter, and ready to break the streak. Mettenberger is known for his work ethic and approach, and interim coach Mike Mularkey noted he's put in even more time during meetings this week. Can he end the skid?
Protect the QB
One of the big reasons the Titans couldn't get anything going in a 20-6 loss to the Texans back on November 1 in Houston – they couldn't protect the quarterback. Mettenberger was sacked seven times in that game, as Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus and defensive lineman J.J. Watt really teed off on him. The Titans have retooled their offensive line since then – Joe Looney replaced Andy Gallik at center this week – and the group needs to do a much better job protecting Mettenberger.
Slow down Hopkins
Not many teams have had success keeping Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins in check. He has 97 catches for 1,315 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. In the first meeting against the Titans, Hopkins caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Veteran Jason McCourty played in that game for the Titans. He's been out ever since, and the secondary has had its share of issues of late. The group needs to clamp down on Sunday.
Get after Weeden
The Texans will also be without their starting QB on Sunday – Brandon Weeden will reportedly get his first start since joining the team, in place of Brian Hoyer, who remains in the concussion protocol. Weeden came off the bench to lead the Texans to a win over the Colts last week, but he's thrown just 18 passes on the season. The Titans need to make him uncomfortable, and force him into mistakes on Sunday.
Make plays, WRs**
The Titans get receiver Kendall Wright back in the lineup after missing the past two games with a rib injury. His return should help take the attention off of tight end Delanie Walker, who has been the focus of defenses all season. Walker has continued to make plays, but the return of Wright should help give him more space. The Titans will try to get Wright involved early. The team also hopes rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham can keep riding the positive momentum following a six-catch, 113-yard receiving day last week against the Patriots.