Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 17th 2023

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The Houston Texans likely will join the long list of NFL teams forging ahead with their backup quarterback when they visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.

C.J. Stroud remained in concussion protocol as of Wednesday.

The rookie quarterback did not return after hitting his head on the turf in the late stages of a 30-6 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Stroud would be difficult to replace, as he’s second in the NFL in passing yards (3,631) and owns the fifth-best passer rating (98.7).

“I don’t think many guys have come back the following week after a concussion,” Houston coach DeMeco Ryans said. “You have to make sure, at the end of the day, that no matter the position, no matter who the guy is, you have to make sure that your guys are healthy.”

Davis Mills, who played the final 6:30 against the Jets, ran the offense during practice on Wednesday and is in line to start on Sunday if Stroud remains in protocol.

Mills has plenty of experience with the Texans, starting 26 games over the previous two seasons — although Houston is just 5-20-1 in those games.

“He’s done a good job for us,” Ryans said of Mills. “The reps that he’s gotten on the scout team and everything – he’s done a good job for us — demeanor has been the same. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do.”

Mills might not have the same receiving corps Stroud has enjoyed most of this season.

The Texans (7-6) already lost rookie wide receiver Tank Dell to a broken leg in a 24-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 26, and leading receiver Nico Collins went down with a calf injury early in the loss to the Jets.

“Other people have to step up and make plays,” Ryans said. “When that opportunity is thrust upon them, are they stepping up and making those plays?”

Collins was feeling better by the middle of the week and attended practice without his helmet on Wednesday, but his status remains undetermined for Sunday.

“Losing Nico is tough,” Ryans said. “Nico has been an explosive playmaker for us all year. He’s a guy who’s been truly reliable. When we’ve needed it most in those moments, Nico has shown up and made those plays.”

Tackles Laremy Tunsil (knee) and George Fant (hip) and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (ankle) were among those who did not participate in practice on Wednesday for the Texans.

Houston is expected to have kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn back for Sunday’s game after he missed the past five games with a right quadricep strain.

The Titans (5-8) enter the game off a short week, but they’re riding the high of a 28-27 comeback victory against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night. Tennessee trailed by two touchdowns with under three minutes left before pulling out the win against the AFC East leader.

Will Levis started the season as the backup to Ryan Tannehill. But the rookie quarterback got his chance to play after the veteran went down with a sprained ankle in late October. Levis has started the past seven games, even after Tannehill returned to full health.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he has been extremely impressed with the rookie’s competitiveness.

“We’ve seen that through the college process, and the evaluation, and his opportunities here,” Vrabel said. “I appreciate the level of his competitiveness, and his understanding of the things that happen that are negative, aren’t going to have any impact going forward. … Being able to process and move ahead is critical.”

The Titans haven’t been relying solely on three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry to power their run game.

Tyjae Spears contributed 128 all-purpose yards against the Dolphins, including 89 receiving yards on six catches.

“I think the role that he is in now is kind of what we envisioned,” Vrabel said. “That sometimes expands on the game and where we’re at.”

Tennessee defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (knee) and defensive end Denico Autry (knee) were among those who did not participate in practice on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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