NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** It's a 16-game season in the NFL, and teams like to divide them up into quarters.
For the Titans, the end of the first quarter is Sunday, in Houston. The team aims to finish in a high note.
"It is big,'' Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said. "It is a division opponent, a chance to leave the quarter at 2-2. It is a big opportunity for us going back on the road, against a rival, I guess you could say. It's an opponent where we both know each other really well, and we are both coming off a loss.
"Both teams are going to want it bad, so it is going to be another tough challenge."
The Titans (1-2) and Texans (2-1) have played 28 games since 2002, and the Titans have a 15-13 edge in the series. The Texans have dominated the rivalry of late, however, with four straight wins and wins in seven of the last eight meetings.
It's a new-look Texans team this year. Brock Oswelier is in his first season at quarterback in Houston, after playing his first four NFL seasons in Denver. The Texans have a reshaped offensive line, and running back in Lamar Miller, formerly with the Dolphins, is in his first year with the club.
And on Sunday, the Texans will be without defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who was placed on Injured Reserve with a back injury. Still, the Texans are ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense.
"They have a good defense,'' Titans running back DeMarco Murray said of the Texans. "They have a new quarterback, a new running back, just like we do. I think their offense is still trying to jell together just like us. Their defense is strong, obviously they've been a top defense for the last couple of years. I know we're going to have our hands full.
"… Our division is a little tight right now. We can't worry too much about other teams, we have to go into Houston and try and get a victory. It is going to be a hostile environment, they are a very good team. They've had kind of a mini bye week and we know how important the division games are, so it's going to be a huge game for us."
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said the Texans have a solid defensive scheme.
"They're good on defense,'' Mularkey said. "The scheme, the personnel that are playing the scheme and the effort from that personnel is very high. So they've got a lot of things going for them on the defensive side of things."
Offensively, Osweiler has thrown for 695 yards and three touchdowns in three games, with four interceptions, and Miller has 269 rushing yards.
The Texans have one of the game's top receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, who already has 16 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins has 24 catches for 449 yards (149.7 per game) and four touchdowns in the past three meetings with the Titans. He had a career-high 238 yards (9 catches, 2 TDs) in a 2014 game against the Titans.
"Hopkins is probably one of the best pass-catching receivers we have ever played against,'' McCourty said. "He's a guy, whether he's covered or whether he is open, somehow he finds a way to come down with the ball.
"So he is another one of those guys where when you line up against him, you better come ready to play and be ready for a battle all day."
Heading into the quarter mark, the Titans know they have an opportunity. Behind the Texans, the Titans and Colts are both 1-2, while the Jaguars are 0-3. The Colts and Jaguars play on Sunday in London.
"It's a great opportunity,'' Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "We have the leader in front of us, going into their place. It is definitely going to be a huge challenge.
"With them leading it, us being behind by a game, we can get back into it if we handle our business."