NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** The Titans face the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium:
Here's a look at six things to watch:
The Titans rookie has sure been fun to watch in the return game. Jackson electrified the crowd with an 80-yard return for a touchdown against the Seahawks, and even though it was called back because of a penalty, it showed again what he's capable of. Remember, Jackson also returned a punt for a touchdown in the preseason, only to see it called back as well. The Texans are ranked 30th in the NFL in punt coverage. Watch out.
Mariota vs the Texans
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is in his third year in the NFL, but this will be just his second time facing the Texans. He's missed three games vs Houston because of injuries. Mariota knows the Texans well – he prepared for them even before games he didn't play in. Through three games this season, Mariota's numbers are solid – 696 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT and an 86.9 passer rating – even if they're not off the charts. On Sunday, he'll aim to have success against a tough Texans defense.
In 10 career meetings against the Titans, Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt he has 15.5 sacks, six forces fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Yeah, that's scary. But keep in mind Watt did most of his damage against offensive linemen no longer with the team. Watt has never played in a game against Mariota – he missed last October's game with an injury. He'll line up in several spots for the Texans, and the Titans will try to keep him in check.
Last Sunday, it was Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. This week, it's Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson the Titans will try and contain. Watson doesn't have Russell's experience, and he's probably not as elusive. But even as a rookie he's shown he has skills as a passer and runner. Watson already has 124 rushing yards on the season, including a 49-yard touchdown run against the Bengals, and he's thrown for 528 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Murray and Henry**
Derrick Henry was a force in Jacksonville, rushing for a career-high 92 yards. DeMarco Murray came alive against the Seahawks, running for 115 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run for a touchdown. So who will lead the way on Sunday against the Texans? After three games, the stats are close to even – Murray (35 carries-184 yards-5.3 average) and Henry (33-171-5.2 average) have both been effective. Murray and Henry are one of only two pairs of running backs with 150-plus rushing yards each.
Titans secondary vs DeAndre Hopkins
Just like Watt on the other side of the football, Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been a real thorn in the side of the Titans over the years. In eight career meetings against the Titans, Hopkins has 823 receiving yards (102.9 per game) with five touchdown catches. He has 90-plus receiving yards in five of the first six games vs. Tennessee. The good news for the Titans is cornerback Logan Ryan has experience vs. Hopkins, dating back to his days with the Patriots. A revamped Titans secondary will aim to slow Hopkins down.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Houston Texans. (AP Photos, Donn Jones)