NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans (2-5) reach the midpoint of their season this week, hosting the Houston Texans (3-4) in the final game before their bye. Kickoff at LP Field (capactiy 69,143) is scheduled for noon CDT on Sunday, Oct. 26.
In a departure from tradition, this week's game between AFC South rivals will be televised regionally on FOX, including Nashville affiliate WZTV FOX 17. The telecast was "cross-flexed" by the NFL and its broadcasting partners from its normal home on CBS to FOX. Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties, while Daryl JohnstonandTony Siragusa will serve as analysts.
The Titans Radio Network, including Nashville flagship 104.5 The Zone, will broadcast the game across the Mid-South with the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith, analyst Frank Wycheck, gameday host Rhett Bryan and sideline reporter Jonathan Hutton.
Additionally, Westwood One Sports will broadcast the game to a national radio audience. Kevin Lee (play-by-play) and Ross Tucker (analyst) will have the call.
TITANS LOOK TO REACH BYE ON A WINNING NOTE
Last week the Titans traveled to Washington, where they were dealt a 19-17 defeat by the Redskins. They went ahead 17-16 in the fourth quarter after Charlie Whitehurst completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan, but they lost the lead—and the game—when Redskins kicker Kai Forbath made a 22-yard field goal as the game clock expired.
With quarterback Jake Locker inactive for the second consecutive week due to a right thumb injury, Whitehurst started for the seventh time in his nine-year career and for third time in 2014. Against Washington, he was 17-of-26 passing for 160 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception.
Including the loss at Washington, the last three Titans games have been decided by a total of five points. They fell to the Cleveland Browns by a final score of 29-28 on Oct. 12, and the next week they prevailed in a 16-14 decision over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Against the Texans, the Titans will hope for their fourth win in their last five AFC South matchups, dating back to the final two weeks (both wins) of the 2013 campaign. One of those wins came against the Texans, a 16-10 victory in last year's Dec. 29 finale at LP Field. The Titans are 15-9 all-time against Houston.
*THE TEXANS *
The Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans battle in a the 2013 season finale at LP Field. (Donn Jones Photography, AP)
The Texans are in their first year under head coach Bill O'Brien, who was named to the post in January. O'Brien spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Penn State, and prior to that, he spent five seasons (2007–2011) as an assistant with the New England Patriots.
O'Brien will be forced to prepare his team for the Titans on a short week. The Texans traveled to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football (Oct. 20) and fell by a final score fo 30-23. It was their third consecutive loss.
To begin the year, they won three out of their first four games before suffering a pair of close defeats—20-17 in overtime at Dallas (Oct. 5) and 33-28 at home against Indianapolis (Oct. 9).
Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is in his first season with the team after spending 2013 with the Titans. In Tennessee, he appeared in 11 games with nine starts, throwing for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns. Now with Houston, the 10th-year signal caller is completing 65 percent of his passes (125 of 192) with an 88.2 passer rating through the first seven weeks.
On defense, the Texans have one of the NFL's most recognizable stars in defensive end J.J. Watt. The 2012 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year is in his fourth season, and through seven games, he has five sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.
CELL PHONES FOR SOLDIERS DRIVE/"SALUTE TO SERVICE" MILITARY APPRECIATION
Fans are encouraged to bring their old cellular phones to the Titans-Texans game and donate them at collection sites outside of LP Field. The collection will benefit Cell Phones for Soldiers, a non-profit that collects old cell phones, sells them for recycling and then uses the income to purchase prepaid calling cards for U.S. servicemen and women stationed overseas.
Also, in keeping with the Titans' long-standing tradition of honoring America's armed forces, Sunday has been designated as the team's "Salute to Service" game, sponsored by Lend-Lease and LP Building Products. Included in the day's festivities will be soldiers from Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne Division holding a United States-shaped flag for the national anthem, a performance by the 101st Airborne Division Band, a re-enlistment ceremony of 101st Airborne soldiers and an appearance by the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles" parachute team (weather permitting).
The Titans-Texans rivalry is in its 13th year since the expansion Texans began play and the AFC South was formed in 2002. In 24 games, the Titans are 15-9 against the Texans, including an 8-4 mark at LP Field and a 7-5 record at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans won three consecutive contests against the Titans until the most recent battle. At Houston on Sept. 30, 2012, Texans quarterback Matt Schaubpassed for two touchdowns, and the Houston defense returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns to defeat the Titans 38-14. Then, on Dec. 2, 2012, the teams squared off at LP Field, and despite 309 passing yards from Jake Locker, the Texans forced six turnovers to pull away with a 24-10 win. In Week 2 of the 2013 campaign (Sept. 15), the Texans came back from an eight-point deficit in the final 3:07 of the fourth quarter. Schaub completed a three-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins on the first drive of overtime to give Houston a 30-24 victory.
The Titans finally ended the Texans' streak at LP Field in last year's season finale. They forced four Texans turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) and rushed for a team-total of 151 yards, including 127 yards and a touchdown by Chris Johnson.
The Titans have separate winning streaks of four games and seven games in the series, the latter of which was ended at Reliant Stadium on Dec. 14, 2008.
The Titans franchise has a rich and storied history with the city of Houston. Under late owner K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., the Titans existed as the Houston Oilers from 1960-96. In Houston, the Oilers won the first two American Football League Championships and made a total of 15 playoff appearances. Nine players that wore a Houston Oilers uniform are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including most recently former quarterback Warren Moon, defensive tackle Curley Culp and offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, who currently serves as Titans offensive line coach.
The team moved to Tennessee in 1997 and in 1999 adopted the "Titans" moniker.