While the outcome of Sunday’s Texans-Titans duel has no bearing as far as postseason seeding goes, Houston is still treating their final regular season game the same as they did their previous 15. If the Texans beat the Marcus Mariota-less Titans on Sunday, they will finish the season with a 10-6 record and will go 6-0 in the division for the first time in franchise history.
“You develop a certain level of confidence in yourself and your teammates when you’re on a winning streak like we’re on right now,” said Texans left tackle Duane Brown. “To go on the road and lose this game and head into the postseason, just leaves a bad taste in your mouth and we’re always trying to improve, especially us on the offensive end. We have a lot we want to clean up and no better time to do it than this week.”
A colossal reason Houston won the division this year was due to their dominance over division opponents. Because Tennessee is currently 1-4 against the division and has already fallen to Houston once this season, the Texans claimed all tiebreakers over them which made this Sunday’s matchup meaningless for anything but momentum and pride. Houston also did something the Titans (and Colts) couldn’t manage to do this season – sweep the cellar-dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars.
Two of Jacksonville’s three wins this season came against the Colts and Titans, while the Texans beat them twice. When a division race is tight (as it usually is in the AFC South), tiebreakers play a vital role in who takes the division crown and punches their ticket to the postseason. The Texans are currently on a nine-game winning streak against the AFC South, which dates back to Oct. 18, 2015.
“This is a big, big game for us, a division game,” Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “Even though we already made it to the playoffs, we still want to show our dominance in the division, go undefeated in the division. That’s special.”
Matt Cassel will be under center for Tennessee this upcoming Sunday, meaning the Titans will lean heavily on their run game, which is led by DeMarco Murray. Murray ranks third in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards and has scored nine rushing touchdowns in 2016. This will give Houston’s No. 1 ranked defense a chance to continue their reign of dominance and enter the postseason with confidence.
“Offensively, they are a very tough team to go against,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “They’re committed to running the football, they’re a very physical team, they have all types of different running schemes that it takes a very long time to get ready for. It’s going to be very difficult to get ready for them this week. They have a good play-action game. They have a lot of good players at all the positions. Defensively, like I talked about with coach (Dick) LeBeau, they’re a tough team, very tough team.”
Not only will the Texans get some work on defense, they will also get to take a crack at trying some new things on offense to improve their red zone efficiency, which has been a big issue for Houston all season. Tom Savage, who is making his second career start at quarterback, will also get an opportunity to get some quality reps, as Houston’s 29th ranked passing game still has a lot of room for improvement before they enter the postseason.
The Texans, who have claimed the AFC’s No. 4 seed, still believe they have a lot to play for and don’t anticipate taking their foot off the gas against Tennessee. Houston will get a shot to achieve a franchise milestone and try new tactics to improve their weaknesses with no repercussions. If Houston’s passing game blossoms at the right time, the Texans will be a team nobody wants to face in January, as their defense and run game are already a force to be reckoned with.