Titans at Texans: What to watch

Friday, January 7, 2022, Vol. 46, No. 1

The Titans, thanks in part to the Cincinnati Bengals, have the AFC’s top seed within their grasp. Not only would that bring home-field advantage to Nashville, it would give the Titans and their many wounded players another week to rest and get healthy for the postseason.

But before we put the season finale in the W column, it is worth remembering that the Texans had an answer for the Titans a month ago in Nissan Stadium. Here are the keys to a Titans victory Sunday.

First down

Take care of business. The Titans have been pretty good this season at finishing things off when the task calls for it. Not that this team hasn’t had some hiccups along the way, but for the most part, when something big has been at stake or there have been doubters with an often short-handed team, the Titans have come through. They need to have that mindset when they take the field Sunday in Houston.

Second down

If it ain’t broke …. The Titans have been running the ball very effectively again in recent weeks, and that has been their formula for success for most of the season. As much as Ryan Tannehill has been resurgent since the return of A.J. Brown, the Titans’ bread and butter is still the running game. If Derrick Henry is back, all the better. If not, D’Onta Foreman & Co. have proven themselves capable of handling the job.

Third down

Dominate with defense. The Titans’ defense has been dominant in recent weeks, especially against the run and creating favorable third-down situations to rush the passer and force turnovers. If the defense can play with the same type of effort that has been on exhibit in the past two games, the Titans shouldn’t have a problem redeeming themselves for that earlier loss to the Texans.

Fourth down

Protect Tannehill. Ryan Tannehill’s confidence level and play have been much better since A.J. Brown came off IR. Targeting Brown will be a big key, but Brown’s presence opens things up for the other receivers and tight ends as well. The key in that will be solid pass protection for the quarterback.