Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 1, 2016 at 1:05 AM
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Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Houston Texans (2-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NRG Stadium, Houston. TV: CBS, Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta.

SERIES HISTORY: 29th meeting. Titans lead the series, 15-13. Tennessee dominated this series in the early stages, but Houston has won four in a row and seven of the past eight.

GAMEDATE: 9/29/16

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Titans got potentially good news with the injury to the Texans' J.J. Watt, who has tormented them over the years. Titans coaches say Watt's absence won't affect their game plan, because of the way the Texans move defensive linemen around to try to find mismatches, but they can't help but breathe a sigh of relief with Watt missing. Look for the Titans to try to establish the run as they did last week with DeMarco Murray. Passing-wise, the Titans have to take care of the football better than they have.

The Texans will try to exploit Marcus Mariota's penchant for turnovers. They must bottle up Murray and Derrick Henry. The offense needs to improve its efficiency as a rushing attack and improve in the red-zone area and cut down on turnovers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Titans OL vs. Texans pass rush. The Titans' offensive line has played well, opening holes for running back DeMarco Murray, who had 114 yards last week. Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin have formed a strong tandem on the edges, while Josh Klein came in at right guard for Chance Warmack and did a credible job in his first start. The Texans, even without Watt, still have good rushers in Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, who must be contained.

--Titans secondary vs. DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is perhaps the best receiver the Titans have faced thus far this season. The secondary, which will be without Da'Norris Searcy, has been bend-but-don't-break for three games now and will have an extra challenge not only with Hopkins, but with Will Fuller.

INJURY REPORT: TITANS -- Out: CB Cody Riggs (hamstring), S Da'Norris Searcy (ankle). Questionable: LB Nate Palmer (knee), TE Delanie Walker (hamstring). TEXANS: -- Out: TE Stephen Anderson (hamstring), T Duane Brown (knee), RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle), WR Braxton Miller (hamstring). Questionable: LB Brian Cushing (knee), S Quintin Demps (hamstring)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: T Taylor Lewan graded out very well against the Raiders, but his penalty at the end of the game cost the Titans a chance to tie late in the contest. Lewan is probably going to be a target from the officials, given his penchant for penalties.

FAST FACTS: Titans QB Marcus Mariota has 866 passing yards, five TDs and a 92.6 rating in his past three division games. In seven career road games, he has thrown for 12 TDs and just two interceptions, for 104.9 rating. ... Since 2013, Titans RB DeMarco Murray leads the NFL with 29 rushing TDs and is second with 3,913 rushing yards. ... Titans WR Andre Johnson played 12 seasons with Houston (2003-14) and is the franchise leader in catches (1,012), yards (13,597) and receiving TDs (64). ... Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins has 24 catches for 449 yards and four TDs in the past three meetings. ... Houston rookie WR Will Fuller has nine catches for 211 yards and a TD in his first two home games. He leads NFL rookies with 242 receiving yards.

PREDICTION: The Texans will be eager to put up some points after stunningly being shut out by the Patriots to start Week 3. Hopkins and Fuller should find room to run and continue Houston's recent dominance in the series.

OUR PICK: Texans, 24-17.

--Chris Cluff

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