Six Things to Watch for the Titans in Saturday's Game vs the Texans

221224-six-things-to-watch

NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Houston Texans on Saturday at Nissan Stadium.

Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:

King Henry

The Titans need to get running back Derrick Henry going – again. In his four previous games against the Texans, Henry has been an absolute beast. Want proof?: Henry has 200-plus rushing yards and two touchdowns in each of his last four games played against the Texans (he missed both games in 2021 with a foot injury). Henry has more games with 200-plus yards and two rush TDs vs the Texans than any other player has such games vs. all opponents since 1950. No other player has had three-plus games with 200-plus rush yards vs a single opponent in their entire career. Will Houston have trouble stopping the King again?

Third Start for QB Malik Willis

Part of the reason the Titans need a big game from Henry is because it would take pressure off rookie quarterback Malik Willis. With starter Ryan Tannehill out with an ankle injury, Willis will make his third career start on Saturday. Willis, of course, made his first NFL start in a game against the Texans in Houston back on October 30. The Titans won that game 17-10 as Willis completed 6-of-10 passes for 55 yards. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has talked openly about the improvement Willis has shown since. He'll get a chance to show it against the Texans.

Banged Up O-line

The Titans on Thursday ruled out two of their five starting offensive linemen – center Ben Jones and guard Nate Davis. Two days earlier, the Titans placed lineman Dillon Radunz on Injured Reserve. Also, left guard Aaron Brewer and right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere are listed as questionable on the team's Injury Report for Saturday's game. The injuries are just the latest up front, and it will challenge Willis, Henry and the entire offense even more. Corey Levin, Jordan Roos and Le'Raven Clark are back-ups on the depth chart in the mix to fill the open spots.

Go Rookies Go

The Titans have gotten a big boost from two of their rookies on offense – tight end Chig Okonkwo and receiver Treylon Burks. Okonkwo has 25 catches for 374 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2022 – it's the most receiving yards by tight ends drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, and the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in Titans history. Meanwhile, the Titans are hoping rookie Treylon Burks returns to the lineup on Saturday after missing the past two games with a concussion. Burks has given the offense a boost when he's played, and the Titans need him to do it again.

Defense

The Titans were stout on defense in the Week 8 contest in Houston, as they allowed just 10 first downs and 161 net yards. The defense recorded three sacks and an interception in that contest. The defense seemed to regain its edge in Los Angeles, when the unit recorded two interceptions and three sacks. With defensive lineman Denico Autry expected back, the tag-team duo of Autry and Jeffery Simmons should be able to be disruptive again. But the Tennessee defense is still missing key players, so the group needs to be on point.

Coldest Game in Franchise History?

The temperate in warm-ups on Sunday is forecasted to be in the single digits, and the temperature at kickoff is forecasted to be in the teens before rising into the 20s during the game. The cold hard truth is the Titans will be playing one of the coldest games in the 24-season history of Nissan Stadium, which opened in 1999, and perhaps the coldest home game in franchise history. The coldest game the Titans have played at Nissan Stadium occurred on Dec. 31, 2017, when the temperature was 23 degrees at kickoff against the Jaguars. In franchise history, the Titans/Oilers have never hosted a game in which the temperature was below 23 degrees. Bundle up on Saturday.

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