NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
Ending in Style
The Titans had one goal last week – beat the Dolphins and win the AFC South – and they accomplished it in resounding fashion with a 34-3 win. The mission in the regular season finale on Sunday is pretty straightforward as well – beat the Texans and capture the No.1 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Titans coach Mike Vrabel has uttered the phrase "winning takes care of everything" countless times in the past week. Against a Texans team that beat the Titans back on November 21 in Nashville, the Titans have every reason to be motivated and ready to take care of business.
All the talk this week was about the potential return of Derrick Henry. And while the Titans running back returned to practice on Wednesday, the team did not activate Henry from Injured Reserve on Saturday, which means he won't play against the Texans. Henry's time will come, in the playoffs. But that doesn't mean there won't be a cool storyline here – running back D'Onta Foreman is a former Texan who has given the Titans a big lift, and he'll return to Houston to face his old team on Sunday. The Titans also made former Colts running back Jordan Wilkins a gameday elevation for Sunday's game, and he'll join a running backs group that also includes versatile back Dontrell Hilliard.
A.J. and Julio
Titans receiver A.J. Brown suffered a chest injury in the Week 11 matchup against the Texans, and it forced him to miss several games. Well, Brown is now back, and he's been reunited on the practice field this week with receiver Julio Jones, who missed this past Sunday's game while on the COVID-19 list. The Titans haven't had these guys together a lot this year, and that's given guys like Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers and others a chance to step up. The Titans would sure like to get the Brown-Jones combo in gear heading into the postseason.
Zach Cunningham vs Former Team
Titans linebacker Zach Cunningham was a force for the Texans while playing from 2017 to the first half of this season in Houston. In fact, Cunningham racked up 11 tackles in the November 21 game while with the Texans, against the Titans. Well, Cunningham is now a Titan after being waived by the Texans earlier this season, and he's played well with his new team. Cunningham admitted on Thursday that Sunday's game will be special, and an extra motivated Cunningham should be fun to watch.
Don't Make it Easy on Them
Looking for a reason how the now 11-5 Titans lost to the now 4-12 Texans back in November? Well, the answer is pretty simple – the Titans turned the ball over five times in that contest, with four interceptions and a fumble. The Texans, meanwhile, didn't turn the ball over once. Despite a bad record, the Texans are a plus-3 in the takeaway/giveaway margin, with 25 takeaways and 22 giveaways. The Titans, meanwhile, are a minus-3 (22 takeaways, 25 giveaways). The Titans can't afford to make it easy on these guys again.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as mentioned previously, threw four INTs in the Week 11 matchup. And while not all of them were his fault, he took ownership and vowed to be better. Tannehill has lived up to that promise, with only two interceptions in the five games since. The Titans should be able to run the ball against a Houston team that's ranked 32nd in the NFL in run defense, but it would also be great to see Tannehill have some success throwing the football as the Titans wrap up the regular season and get ready for the playoffs.