NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans travel to Houston on Sunday to face the Texans.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
The Titans have been without receiver Kendall Wright since the start of training camp, and they've missed him. Wright's quickness makes him tough to defend, and his return should help the offense. Through three games, running back DeMarco Murray leads the team in receptions (17), while receiver Tajae Sharpe is the team leader in yards (157). Wright should provide a boost with play-making ability. The Titans are hopeful tight end Delanie Walker will be back as well, but we'll have to wait until Sunday to be sure.
Texans without Watt
Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has made life miserable for the Titans – and every NFL club for that matter. He won't be in action on Sunday after he was placed on Injured Reserve. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said on Friday that Watt's out for the season. But the Texans are plenty good even without him. The Titans need to find a way to slow down talented linebackers Whitney Mercilus (2 sacks), Jadeveon Clowney (1.0), Benardrick McKinney (2) and John Simon (2.5). Mercilus had 3.5 sacks in a game against the Titans last year.
Mariota vs Texans D
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will face the Texans for the first time in his career. He missed both games vs Houston last year with injuries, and Zach Mettenberger stepped in. Mariota has proven to be a gamer on the road. Can he keep it going? In seven career road games, Mariota has thrown for 1,612 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions, with a 104.9 rating. A week after turning the ball over three times against the Raiders, cutting down on the mistakes is on his mind.
Another week, another big-time receiver the Titans have to find a way to slow down. A week after facing Oakland's Amari Cooper, the Titans will see Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Hopkins is a beast. He can fly, but he's also top-notch in winning one-on-one battle when the ball is anywhere in range. Hopkins has 24 catches for 449 yards (149.7 per game) and four touchdowns in the past three meetings vs the Titans. He had a career-high 238 yards (9 catches, 2 TD) in a 2014 game against the Titans. The Titans can't let this happen again.
Titans receiver Andre Johnson doesn't like to admit it, but Sunday's game will be special. Johnson played 12 seasons in Houston, and was named to seven Pro Bowls with the Texans. He's the franchise's leader in catches (1,012) and yards (13,597) and TDs (64). In his return to Houston a year ago, when he was with the Colts, Johnson had a season-high six catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Will he make himself feel at home again with the Titans? It's also a return trip for Titans center Ben Jones, who spent his first four seasons with the Texans.
Against the Raiders, Murray became Tennessee's first 100-yard rusher in a game since the 2013 season. The Titans would like to establish the run – and slow down Houston's pass rush – by getting Murray and fellow running back Derrick Henry cranked up on Sunday. The Texans are ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense, but they're just 26th in rushing defense through three games, allowing 125.7 yards per game. There could be an opportunity.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Houston Texans. (AP Photos, Donn Jones)