For the first time in NFL history, football fans around the world will be treated to a Week 18 of the regular season. As this bonus week approaches, the Titans are poised to secure No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage with a win over the Texans.

This season, with all of its injuries and illness, has been difficult for many teams around the league, but it could be argued that no team has faced as many challenges this year as the Tennessee Titans. Head coach Mike Vrabel has never been one to make excuses, but the fact that the team has used 88 different players on the active 53-man roster throughout the course of the season cannot go unmentioned.

Despite the injuries to star players across both sides of the ball, the Titans have managed to put themselves in the perfect postseason position this weekend as the team travels down to Houston to square off with their AFC South rival Texans.

It has been a rocky road for first-year head coach David Culley and his talent-depleted Texans squad. However, that did not stop the Texans from upsetting the Titans in Week 11 as Tennessee’s six-game win streak came to a screeching halt on a cold and rainy Sunday in Nissan Stadium.

The Titans enter the all-important contest on Sunday as the team has had multiple key players return to the active roster. For reference, Adrian Peterson led the Titans in rush yards and the leading receiver in the first meeting between the two teams was Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.

There has been major changes for the Texans as well. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was able to just enough as he used his legs to make critical plays late in the game contributing to Houston’s win. It also helped that the Titans turned the ball over five times. Rookie QB Davis Mills gets the start on Sunday as he provides a much different skillset than the aforementioned Taylor.

Make Mills Move

Mills is not the dual-threat QB that the Titans had so much trouble with in Week 11’s loss. In fact, Mills has just seven rushing attempts all season for a total of 24 yards. It’s not easy to beat this Titans defense by being statuesque in the pocket. The Titans have a hungry front seven that has more than twice the amount of sacks this season (41) than the defense had in all of last year (19). Mills’ inability to move the pocket could be his downfall as the Titans defense and their newly acquired ILB Zach Cunningham have revenge on their minds.

Run The Damn Ball

One of the more impressive characteristics of this Titans team has been the ability to establish a running game without Derrick Henry. Former Texans, and now Titans RB, D’Onta Foreman and his backfield mate Dontrell Hilliard have done a fine job in filling in for King Henry. Foreman has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three games this season while Hilliard has hit the century mark once as well.

The Texans’ biggest weakness this season has been the team’s inability to stop the run. Houston enters Sunday’s contest ranking last in the NFL in rush yards allowed as the Texans are allowing opponents to rush for an average of 143 yards per game.  That number is somehow an improvement from last season when the Texans gave up 160 yards on the ground per contest. Now are without the team’s best linebacker in Cunningham.

While on paper the Titans should roll the Texans, expect Tennessee to take the field in Houston with a much different focus than they had in their loss to the Texans earlier in the season. Unlike most teams late in the season, the Titans are getting healthier by the week, which is not a good sign for Houston. Tennessee clearly holds the motivational edge as they know how important a first round bye in the playoffs is for guys like Henry and Julio Jones, who are on their way back from injuries.


Featured image via Steve Roberts – USA TODAY Sports