The Tennessee Titans(3-11) conclude their 2015 home schedule this week against the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (7-7). Kickoff at Nissan Stadium (capacity 69,143) is scheduled for noon CST on Sunday, Dec. 27.
TITANS HOPE TO FINISH STRONG AGAINST DIVISION FOES
The Titans’ two remaining games are both against division opponents. After they play the Texans, they finish the season on Jan. 3 at the Indianapolis Colts. They earned a win in their most recent division game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 6.
The Titans return home following a 33-16 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots and are 2-5 under interim head coach Mike Mularkey, who took the reins on Nov. 3.
At New England, the Titans played more than half of the game with Zach Mettenberger at quarterback after a knee injury forced rookie starter Marcus Mariota out after attempting only six passes. Mettenberger was 20-of-28 passing for 242 yards, including a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Delanie Walker, but he was victimized for two interceptions. The Patriots forced a total of three turnovers and sacked the Titans passers five times.
With two weeks remaining in his rookie campaign, Mariota already has set the franchise rookie records for pass attempts (370), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing touchdowns (19). With one more touchdown pass, he would become the 11th quarterback in NFL history to reach 20 touchdown passes as a rookie.
Mariota is not the only Titans player in search of significant milestones. Walker has 76 receptions and 935 yards, which already qualify as single-season franchise records among tight ends. He needs 65 more receiving yards for the first-ever 1,000-yard season by a Titans tight end, and he could become only the 13th player in team annals with 80 catches in a season. Seven or more receptions would put him in at least a tie with Tim Smith (83 receptions in 1983) for eighth place on the franchise single-season receptions list.
While Mariota, the second-overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, has garnered praise throughout his rookie campaign, the team’s second-round pick, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, has increased his production in recent weeks. At New England, he led the team with six receptions and 113 receiving yards, hitting the 100-yard mark for the second time in three games. He is one of three NFL rookies in 2015 to record multiple 100-yard receiving games, joining Oakland’s Amari Cooper and Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs. Green-Beckham, Kenny Britt (2009) and Justin Hunter (2013) are the only three rookies in the “Titans era” (1999—present) with multiple 100-yard receiving games.
TEXANS IN SEARCH OF DIVISION CROWN Head coach Bill O’Brien’s Texans enter Week 16 needing a win to maintain sole possession of first place in the division. They faced a crucial hurdle last week at Indianapolis and came away with a 16-10 victory over the Colts, who slipped to second place at 6-8. Meanwhile, the third-place Jacksonville Jaguars are still in the race at 5-9. Simultaneous to the the Titans-Texans matchup this week, the Jaguars will visit the New Orleans Saints and the Colts will play at the Miami Dolphins.
Against the Colts, Texans starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was inactive due to a concussion, and as a result, T.J. Yates received the start. However, Yates was knocked out of the contest with a knee injury in the first half, producing an unlikely hero in third-stringer Brandon Weeden. In the fourth quarter, Weeden completed the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaelen Strong.
Whoever serves as the starting quarterback this week will have the benefit of throwing to one of the top young pass-catching talents in the NFL, third-year wideout DeAndre Hopkins. The former first-round pick ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,315 receiving yards and is tied for fourth with 97 receptions. On defense, the Texans are led by two-time Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Watt is tied for second place in the NFL with 13.5 sacks.
TITANS-TEXANS SERIES AT A GLANCE
Overall series (regular & postseason): Titans lead 15-12
Regular season series: Titans lead 15-12
Postseason series: None
Total points: Titans 555, Texans 606
Current streak: Three wins by Texans
Titans at home vs. Texans: 8-5
Titans on the road vs. Texans: 7-7
Longest winning streak by Titans: 7 (2005-08)
Longest losing streak by Titans: 3 (twice, 2012-13 and 2014-15)
Titans vs. Texans at Nissan Stadium: 8-5
Last time at Nissan Stadium: TEXANS 30 at Titans 16 (10-26-14)
Titans vs. Texans at NRG Stadium: 7-7
Last Time at NRG Stadium: Titans 6 at TEXANS 20 (11-1-15)
First time: Texans 10 at TITANS 17 (11-10-02)
Mike Mularkey’s record vs. Texans: 1-2
Bill O’Brien’s record vs. Titans: 3-0
Mike Mularkey’s record vs. Bill O’Brien: 0-0
A TITANS VICTORY WOULD
Give the Titans two consecutive home wins.
Give the Titans two consecutive wins in the AFC South.
Improve Zach Mettenberger’s starting record to 1-8.
Improve Mike Mularkey’s career record as a head coach to 19-37.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
S Michael Griffin (897 career tackles, as tallied by coaches) needs three tackles to reach 900 for his career and 11 tackles to pass Ted Washington (907) for fourth place on the franchise career list.
P Brett Kern (520 punts with the Titans) needs three punts to pass Jim Norton (522) for second place on the franchise’s all-time career punting list.
TE Delanie Walker (74 receptions in 2015) needs four receptions to record the 13th 80-catch season in franchise history.
TE Delanie Walker (935 receiving yards) needs 65 receiving yards to reach 1,000 receiving yards in 2015.
TE Delanie Walker (199 receptions with the Titans) needs one catch to break a tie with Alvin Reed (199) for third on the franchise’s all-time receptions list among tight ends and become the third tight end in franchise history to reach 200 receptions (Frank Wycheck and Bo Scaife).
WR Kendall Wright (248 career receptions for 2,810 yards) needs two receptions to reach 250 for his career. He needs four receptions to pass Bo Scaife (251) for 13th place on the team’s all-time receptions list and needs nine yards to pass Alvin Reed (2,818) for 15th place on the team’s all-time receiving yards list.
TITANS-TEXANS SERIES HISTORY
The Titans-Texans rivalry is in its 14th year since the expansion Texans began play and the AFC South was formed in 2002. In 27 games, the Titans are 15-12 against the Texans, including an 8-5 mark at Nissan Stadium and a 7-7 record at NRG Stadium.
While the Titans have the advantage in the series, the Texans have won six out of the last seven battles, including a current three-game streak.
The last time the teams met at Nissan Stadium was Oct. 26, 2014. Titans then-rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger recorded his first professional start and was 27-of-41 passing for 299 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a passer rating of 93.4. The Titans defense recorded five sacks, but it was not enough to overcome 173 total yards and three touchdowns by running back Arian Foster, who led Houston to a 30-16 win. In the rematch at Houston on Nov. 30, the Texans completed the season sweep, as Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for six touchdowns and 358 yards in a 45-21 Texans victory.
In the initial meeting of 2015, played at NRG Stadium on Nov. 1, Mettenberger (22-of-31 for 171 yards and an interception) started for an injured Marcus Mariota (knee) and was sacked seven times as the Texans rolled to a 20-6 win. Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt combined for six of the sacks.
The Titans franchise has a rich and storied history with the city of Houston. Under late owner K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr., the Titans existed as the Houston Oilers from 1960-96. In Houston, the Oilers won the first two American Football League Championships and made a total of 15 playoff appearances. Nine players who spent a significant portion of their careers in a Houston Oilers uniform are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including most recently former quarterback Warren Moon, defensive tackle Curley Culp and offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
The team moved to Tennessee in 1997 and in 1999 adopted the “Titans” moniker.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
935 Receiving yards in 2015 by Delanie Walker, breaking his own franchise tight end record of 890 receiving yards in a season (2014).
76 Receptions in 2015 by Delanie Walker, breaking Frank Wycheck’s franchise tight end record of 70 receptions in a season (1998 and 2000).
528 Receiving yards in 2015 by second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham. The total ranks fourth among all rookies.
2 Players in the Super Bowl era—Marcus Mariota and Kordell Stewart—who have passed for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass during their rookie seasons.
1 Touchdown pass needed by Marcus Mariota to join nine other rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to reach 20 touchdown passes.
4 Games during his rookie season in which Marcus Mariota has completed at least three touchdown passes. He is the second rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat, along with Peyton Manning (1998).
7.8 Percent of opponent passing plays resulting in sacks by the Titans defense, which ranks third in the NFL (Denver, New England).
11 Number of different Titans players who have caught touchdown passes this season, breaking the previous franchise record of 10 different players in 1961.
118 Tackles by inside linebacker Avery Williamson, who leads the team and became the first player for the team in the “Titans era” (1999–present) to begin his career with consecutive 100-tackle seasons.
3 Consecutive seasons by Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey with at least five sacks, including seven sacks in 2015.
897 Career tackles (coaches’ tally) by Titans safety Michael Griffin, who could become the fifth player in team history to reach 900 tackles.
14 Rookies who have played for the Titans during their first 14 games: Marcus Mariota, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jeremiah Poutasi, Andy Gallik, Jalston Fowler, Angelo Blackson, Deiontrez Mount, Cody Riggs, Quinton Spain, Tre McBride, David Cobb, Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, J.R. Tavi and Andrew Turzilli. All nine of the team’s draft picks in 2015 have played.
520 Punts in a Titans uniform by Brett Kern, who is three punts away from passing Jim Norton (522) for second on the franchise’s career punts list behind only Craig Hentrich (861).
Referee: Brad Allen
Umpire: Fred Bryan
Head Linesman: Jim Mello
Line Judge: Tom Symonette
Field Judge: Michael Banks
Side Judge: Tom Hill
Back Judge: Shawn Hochuli
Replay Official: Jim Lapetina
CBS Nashville Affiliate: WTVF News Channel 5
DirecTV Sunday Ticket: Ch. 714
Play-by-Play: Spero Dedes
Analyst: Solomon Wilcots
Titans Radio Network Flagship: WGFX 104.5 FM-The Zone
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 119
Play-by-Play: Mike Keith
Gameday Host: Rhett Bryan
Sideline Reporter: Jonathan Hutton
Scheduled Gameday Promotions (subject to change)
12th Titan Sword of Honor: Middle Tennessee native and U.S. Navy veteran Chris Ring, the first American to swim the Mississippi River
Fans Will Receive: Grocery tote bag from Coke and Kroger
Halftime: Performance by LANco
National Anthem: Clay Walker