NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Houston Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
While fans of the team continue to clamor for a nickname for the Titans defensive front, the pass rushers just keep harassing quarterbacks. The Titans have now recorded 27 sacks over in the first 10 games of the season, with linebacker Harold Landry (10 sacks) and defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons (7.5 sacks) leading the way. Simmons has five sacks in the past two games combined, and the Titans have nine sacks as a team the last two weeks. This week's target is Houston quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and he can be an elusive one. The Titans will need to be disciplined with their rushes while trying to make Taylor uncomfortable. Keeping Taylor from tucking it and running for big gains is another defensive priority.
Run the Ball Better
Life without Derrick Henry hasn't been easy for the Titans running game. Running backs Adrian Peterson and D'Onta Foreman have had modest success the past two weeks with Henry sidelined against some of the league's toughest run defenses in the Rams and Saints. The Titans have rushed for just 66 yards and 69 yards, respectively, over the past two weeks. Sunday's game should provide more opportunities, and a better chance for success. The Texans enter the game ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (136.9) and 25th in rushing yards per play (4.53). It would be nice to see the backs start building some momentum. The Titans will be without RB Jeremy McNichols on Sunday, as he's already been ruled out for the game because of a concussion.
Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing this week offered some praise for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, saying his value to the team is a lot greater than his statistics might suggest. In 10 games, Tannehill's numbers are somewhat ordinary, with 12 touchdowns vs eight interceptions, and a passer rating of 90.7. But Tannehill has also made plays with his feet, and he's hung tough while taking some pretty big hits. Against a Texans defense that's ranked 30th overall, a Tennessee offense that's sputtered at times of late should have a chance to get going.
The Top Target?
Receiver A.J. Brown had a mammoth game the last time the Titans faced the Texans, back in January, in Houston. Brown had 10 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in that contest. Brown has 27 catches for 447 yards (111.8 per game) and five touchdowns in four career meetings vs the Texans. With Brown slowed last week, Marcus Johnson stepped up with a 100-yard game. So, who is going to rise to the occasion on Sunday? Could the tight ends enter the mix a little more?
The Titans had arguably their best weekend of the season last week against the Saints, as kicker Randy Bullock was perfect on a day when punter Brett Kern was effective as a weapon, and the coverage teams (linebacker Dylan Cole) forced a fumble that led to a touchdown. The Titans would like to keep the momentum going, and the hunch here is they'll get a jumpstart in the punt return game with Chester Rogers. In recent weeks, Rogers has made good decisions while being aggressive fielding punts. Now, he's due to break a longer one.
Fisher, Reese Induction
It will be a special day on Sunday for former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and the family of former general manager Floyd Reese, who passed away earlier this year. Fisher and Reese will be formally inducted into the Titans/Oilers Ring of Honor by Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk during a ceremony at the half. Fisher's family will be on hand, along with friends and former players. Reese's widow Sally Reese and the couple's two sons will also be at Nissan Stadium on what's certain to be an emotional day. And, don't forget, Titans legend Jevon Kearse will be the Honorary 12th Titan.