After the Tennessee Titans‘ regular-season finale against the Houston Texans wraps up on Sunday, you won’t have to look at the final score to see which team won.
A glance at the game’s turnover differential will almost definitely clue you in on who emerged with a victory.
That was certainly the biggest factor in the Titans’ embarrassing Week 11 loss to the Texans, who were 1-8 at the time and boasted both the NFL’s worst scoring offense and defense.
In that game, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill threw four interceptions. WR Chester Rogers muffed a punt, which Houston recovered. The Titans’ defense never took the ball away from Texans QB Tyrod Taylor and company.
The Titans lost the turnover battle 5-0. As a result, they lost the game.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) December 8, 2021
“I don’t care who it is, you turn the ball over in this league, you’re going to lose,” head coach Mike Vrabel said after the game. “Nobody wants to hear that, nobody believes that, but when you do that, it doesn’t matter what the record is.
“We had five turnovers. They had zero. You’re going to lose the game 99 percent of the time.”
For the Titans to win this time around, they will need to avoid a repeat of their November turnover meltdown.
Tennessee is, in every possible way, an objectively better team than Houston. They have better talent at every position, their coaching is better and they are experienced in consistently finding ways to win.
But if the offense can’t hold onto the football, as Vrabel said, those talent and culture disparities won’t matter.
It bodes well for the Titans that rookie QB Davis Mills will start for the Texans over Taylor, who Tennessee struggled to defend in Week 11.
It’s also a big benefit that the Titans will be playing for a first-round bye in the playoffs while the Texans will play for absolutely nothing aside from pride.
That motivation means there’s zero chance of the Titans “overlooking” the Texans or treating this game as a mini-vacation⏤not that such a temptation would’ve been present, to begin with.
Every sign points to this game being a smooth, straightforward and simple win for the Titans. If they win the turnover battle, it will be.
Cover image: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean