We’ve finally hit week 17, and with that, comes the conclusion to a rather entertaining playoff race that transpired over the course of the year in both conferences.
Magical moments to keep seasons alive, juicy storylines to dissect, this is the time of year where the NFL truly reaches its peak level of excitement and anxiety. For the Tennessee Titans, they’re right in the thick of the thrill that comes with the playoff chase.
After dropping their Week 16 game against Green Bay last week, the Titans have been forced to ride into Week 17 knowing they’ll likely have to take care of business if they want to safely make the playoffs.
On tap are the Houston Texans, a team that’s limping to the end of the year, with their star quarterback playing through pain.
It should be an interesting game given how much the Titans’ defense has struggled this year, so let’s preview it all.
Major Storylines Heading Into The Game
If the Titans Win, They’ll Be Division Champs For The 1st Time Since 2008
The task at hand is simple for the Tennessee Titans.
Win, and you’ll not only make the playoffs, but you’ll win the AFC South for the first time in since 2008. To give you a perspective, the last time the Titans won the AFC South, was when Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch both starred as Tennessee’s main men off the edge. Old man Kerry Collins started at quarterback for the majority of the year due to Vince Young hurting himself in Week One.
I can go on and one with these.
Taking the division crown would be another step towards shedding the organization’s label of mediocrity, something Jon Robinson has been striving to do ever since he took over the Titans’ GM job in 2016.
He’s been at the helm for a few 9-7 seasons, none of which have given him a division title.
But a victory on Sunday would change that, and would finally give Robinson the division crown he’s been chasing.
Throughout the many years of purgatory, disappointment, and embarrassment, winning a division title would undoubtedly free this team from its past shackles of failure. But in order to do that, you first have to take care of business against a bad Texans team.
So if the #Titans win next week, they win the AFC South, end of story.
If they lose, let’s just say it’ll be complicated and nauseating for you all.
— TreJean Watkins (@TreWatkins099) December 28, 2020
Houston Is Limping to The Finish Line
It’s been an extremely disappointing year for the Texans.
Bill O’Brien was fired after a lengthy, yet controversial stay as Houston’s head coach and GM. The defense has been awful once again, and has no clear way to get better due to the Texans’ cap situation and lack of draft capital. To top it all off, team icon JJ Watt isn’t happy with the way things are going, and could ask to be shipped to a contender if he desires it.
It’s just an all around pitiful situation in Houston right now, with very few bright spots to symbolize hope for the future.
Luckily for them though, star quarterback Deshaun Watson has been lighting the league on fire, and with unreliable weapons for the most part.
2020 wasn’t Houston’s year no doubt, but they still have a chance to play spoiler, an idea interim head coach Romeo Crennel is excited about.
.@HoustonTexans coach Romeo Crennel: We want to win this game vs the @Titans. It's a division game. We have friends on that #Titans staff and if we can win we can talk to them about it for a year. That's the nature of this business, we're all competitors
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) December 30, 2020
Matchups to Watch
1. Derrick Henry vs. Houston’s Front 7
Derrick Henry loves playing against the Houston Texans.
He’s rushed for 423 yards in his last two games against them, and has a good shot at finding more success today. Houston’s front 7 is still a mess, something that doesn’t bode well if you’re trying to shut down one of the best running backs in football.
The Titans will rely on Henry quite a bit, so expect the usual feast of carries for Henry today.
A little bonus nugget, Henry needs 223 yards to hit 2,000 rushing yards on the season. It’s always unlikely that a back rushes for over 200 yards in a game, but with the way Henry plays against the Texans’ soft front 7, it’s entirely possible.
2. Deshaun Watson vs. Tennessee’s Secondary
Deshaun Watson is probably having the best year of his career so far, and it’s being criminally wasted.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) December 27, 2020
Watson has thrown for just under 4,500 yards, along with 30 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. He’s been downright clinical during the past 2 months, and will look to continue his hot play against a leaky Titans pass defense.
The ex-Clemson product has always played really good games against the Titans, so any sort of success you see him have today shouldn’t be surprising in the slightest.
Will his play lead the Texans to an upset?
Probably not, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Tennessee Titans: OLB Harold Landry
Landry hasn’t had a good year so far.
But he’ll have a chance to find some success today, as starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil is out for today’s game. The Titans will need Landry to be at his best, especially considering how lethal Deshaun Watson can be as a passer.
Texans’ LT Laremy Tunsil is not expected to play in the regular-season finale against Tennessee because of an ankle injury, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 3, 2021
If you get consistent pressure on Watson. it’ll go a long way towards the Titans walking out of Houston win a win.
Houston Texans: MLB Zach Cunningham
Cunningham is probably one of the few bright spots the Texans have on the team, let alone on defense. He’s a thumper that can pop running backs in the hole, and shut down run plays before they can truly begin.
He’ll be put to the test today though, as he’ll be tasked with limiting what Derrick Henry can do in the run game.
Easier said than done, but if Cunningham can slow Henry down just a bit, the Texans just might force the Titans into more obvious passing situations.
Although Deshaun Watson poses some potential problems for the Titans’ defense, I still think it won’t be enough to steal a win, and put the Titans’ playoff hopes on hold.
Give me the Titans in this one.