The Houston Texans hope to stay within striking distance in the AFC South when they welcome the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The Texans have little margin for error if they want to stay in the playoff race, sitting two games behind Indianapolis in the division and the five teams tied for two wild-card spots after a 22-13 loss to Cincinnati last week. The Titans have dropped five straight and are tied for the third-worst record in the league.
The Titans were trounced 43-24 last week in Philadelphia despite Zach Mettenberger's franchise rookie record of 345 passing yards and two touchdowns. The Texans have won four of the past five meetings, including a 30-16 victory at Tennessee in Week 8 in which Mettenberger passed for 299 yards and two TDs in his first NFL start. "He's definitely improved," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said of Mettenberger. "The more you play, especially when you're a young quarterback, you're bound to get better, and he has. … It's a big challenge for us."
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Texans -6. O/U: 43.
ABOUT THE TITANS (2-9): Tennessee has turned over the offense to a pair of rookies, as Mettenberger (1,103 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs) prepares to make his fifth start alongside fellow rookie and leading rusher Bishop Sankey (432 yards, 2 TDs). The Titans might need a big game from Mettenberger, because they have averaged only 58.3 yards on the ground during their losing streak and likely will face tough sledding against a strong Houston run defense. The matchup is a tough one for Tennessee's defense, which is solid against the pass but ranks last against the run, allowing 145.4 yards per game on the ground.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (5-6): Houston should have star running back Arian Foster back Sunday after missing two games with a groin injury, which would be a boon for the league's third-best rushing offense. The passing game has been less effective, and now the Texans must turn back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started the first nine games and regained the job when Ryan Mallett suffered a torn pectoral muscle last week. The Texans rank 29th in total defense (387.9 yards per game) but are 11th in scoring defense (20.5) thanks to an NFL-best 24 takeaways.
1. Foster has 31 career 100-yard rushing games, tied with Priest Holmes for the most by an undrafted player.
2. Titans TE Delanie Walker (667) needs 102 receiving yards to set the franchise record for a tight end set by Frank Wycheck in 1998.
3. Texans WR Andre Johnson, who has a reception in 129 consecutive games, needs 55 receiving yards to surpass Torry Holt (13,382) for 12th all-time.
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Titans 17