Texans try to spoil Titans’ pursuit of AFC top seed

Sixty more minutes of football and one of the Houston Texans weirdest seasons will come to an end as they face the Tennessee Titans on Fan Appreciation Day this Sunday afternoon at NRG Stadium.

While the past two years have been littered with cases where the team seemingly going out of their way to alienate the fanbase, give the Texans some credit – they’ve announced a reduction in membership prices for their base. existing members.

As the spouse of an original subscription member, I want to thank Texans for the $ 430 in savings. (NOTE: They’ve already been spent, I’m sure.) More seriously, it’s a sign that at least one area of ​​the building fully understands how disenfranchised some fans feel. These fans are now represented by a multitude of empty seats on Sunday.

Regarding that last game of the season and the level of “juice” in the building, it helps that it’s the Titans coming to town, and it helps that the Titans have a high stake in the outcome of this game. So let’s start with things to watch out for on Sunday:

4. What are the stakes, for both parties?
For the Titans, it’s simple – win this game as a double-digit favorite and you land the No.1 seed in the AFC playoff race. The seed has always been important, as it comes with a first-round pass AND a field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. However, with the addition of a seventh team in the AFC playoffs, there is now only ONE pass in each conference. The Texans, meanwhile, are focused on their draft slot for next season. Losing that game would actually win the third overall pick, but winning the game would only bring the Texans back to the fifth overall pick. I’d say it’s worth the two places in the draft to partially ruin Tennessee’s chances in the playoffs.

3. From former Texans to Titans galore
There are recent former Houston Texans on almost every NFL lineup. This will happen when you trade star players, let free agents walk, and give so many bad contracts – cough, O’Brien, cough – that the next general manager has no other choice but to empty the team. Of the other 31 teams, there are more former Houston Texans on the Tennessee Titans than anywhere else. That goes without saying, with former Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as head coach. Of the half-dozen former Texas titans, the ones Texan fans will watch the most on Sunday will be former 2017 third-round pick RB D’Onta Foreman, who ran for 132 yards last week in the absence of Derrick Henry, and former 2017 second-round pick LB Zach Cunningham, who was sidelined a few weeks ago, and is now starting for the Titans, and led them in tackles last week.

2. Texan players chase milestones
Since there’s no postseason football for the Texans to look forward to after Sunday, let’s also highlight a few statistical milestones that are at stake for individual team members on Sunday. Here are a few to watch:

* DE JONATHAN GREENARD (8 sacks in 11 games) needs two sacks on Sunday to become the fifth player in team history to end a season with double-digit sacks. The other four are JJ Watt (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), Mario Williams (2007, 2008), Whitney Mercilus (2015 and Connor Barwin (2011).

* WR BRANDIN COOKS needs 194 receiving yards to establish his single-season high. While 194 yards would be a career high in a Cooks game, it is doable. His current season record-breaking total for receiving yards was back in 2018 with the Rams, when he tallied 1,204 receiving yards.

* Rookie QB DAVIS MILLS needs 230 passing yards to set a Texans rookie record for passing yards. The current record holder is David Carr, who amassed 2,592 passing yards in the franchise’s inaugural campaign in 2002. If we’re going to get really scary, if Mills could shoot a “Ryan Fitzpatrick” and throw six passes away. touchdown in a home win over Tennessee (as Fitzy did in 2014), Mills would tie Deshaun Watson for the team’s rookie record in touchdown passes with 19 overall.

* RB REX BURKHEAD (403 rushing yards) must rush 35 yards to prevent the 2021 Houston Texans from having the lowest yield of the season from an individual leader in team history. The current “record holder” (using those quotes as it is a questionable distinction) is Steve Slaton, with 437 rushing yards in 2009.

1. Players playing (possibly) in final matches as Texan
The Texans have entered this season with a majority of their roster made up of all new Houston Texans. Also, a lot of those first-time Texans were on one-year deals, so that just came off – there’s still going to be a LOT of turnover with this roster in 2022. Sunday, a lot of Texan players who will enter the field will play in their final games as the Houston Texans.

Among those who are likely to disappear after this season, those who have played a key role (for better or for worse) in recent seasons include pending free agents S Justin Reid, TE Jordan Akins, RB David Johnson and TE Pharaoh Brun. Among the players who could be released for salary cap purposes after Sunday, I would include S Eric Murray, T Marcus Cannon and K Ka’imi Fairbairn. Among the young players who can be let go for performance reasons, I would add CB Lonnie Johnson and G Max Scharping.

SPREAD: Texans +10.5
PREDICTION: Titans 34, Texans 17

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like it on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.


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