The Tennessee Titans can secure their second playoff berth in three years — after qualifying for the postseason only once since 2008 — and all they have to do is defeat the AFC South champion Houston Texans on Sunday. They may have a significant advantage as well. With their postseason berth secured and no possibility of rising higher than the third seed, Houston appears likely to rest many of their key players for the matchup, according to a Fansided report.
By the time the Tennessee-Houston game gets underway, the Texans will already have a good idea of their postseason positioning. If the Kansas City Chiefs win their earlier game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston will be locked into the AFC’s fourth seed. Only if the Chiefs lose, will Houston Coach Bill O’Brien be faced with a decision. A win, in that case, would give the Texans the third seed, because they already hold a head-to-head victory over Kansas City.
But would it be worth it? According to Fansided correspondent Michael Moraitis, there is “zero chance” that O’Brien will risk injury to his most important players by leaving them exposed in a game that means very little or, more likely, nothing as far as postseason positioning is concerned.
NBC Sports previews the Tennessee Titans Vs. Houston Texans regular season-ending game, in the video below.
Oddsmakers appear acutely aware of the Texans’ situation. Even with 8-7 Tennessee playing on the road, and even with Houston having beaten them just two weeks ago, the Titans enter the game as 3 1/2 point favorites, according to Sports Illustrated — likely thanks to the extra motivation of needing to win in order to guarantee their place in the playoffs, and to Houston’s caution about their own situation.
One Texan who definitely will not be in the lineup is five-time All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, who is eligible to come off the injured reserve list, but reportedly will not be activated for Sunday’s game.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were both limited in practice all week, according to USA Today, and are likely to see limited if any action against Tennessee on Sunday.
Houston’s defense comes into the game ranked 30th in pass defense, and might be missing several starters. At the same time, Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been rejuvenated since leaving Miami. In his first season with the Titans, the 31-year-old, seven-year veteran leads the NFL in passer rating at 116.5, as well as yards per pass attempt at 9.6, and yards per completion at 13.5.