Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Predictions 10-18-2020

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Perhaps the clearest confirmation of the Tennessee Titans' status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender came on Tuesday night in Nashville against the previously unbeaten Buffalo Bills.

The Titans not only looked sharp in their first game since Sept. 27, with a COVID-19 outbreak putting their season on pause following their Week 3 road victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee played with remarkable precision in all three phases, appearing in no manner disrupted by an unexpected suspension and reconfiguration of its regular season schedule.

On Sunday, the Titans (4-0) will host the Houston Texans (1-3) at Nissan Stadium, poised to maintain their early season momentum and positioned to secure a four-game lead on their primary AFC South rivals. The Texans have claimed four of the previous five division titles.

Tennessee will have to overcome the hurdle of a short preparation week while continuing to settle in on the heels of an emotional roller coaster of exacting coronavirus tests and protocols.

"I think that's what we have to do," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "You get back to work, win or lose, and still try to find ways to improve. I think that's something that we've always talked about. I think that the players understand that and appreciate that if you don't continue to improve and find ways to get better each and every week, you're not going to be where you want to be at the end of the season."

The Titans, who finished 6 for 6 in the red zone while committing zero turnovers and allowing no sacks against Buffalo, are hamstrung by the number of players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, fullback Khari Blasingame, tight end MyCole Pruitt and defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons remained on that inactive list on Wednesday.

Tennessee did activate cornerback Kristian Fulton from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday but he was among the inactives after not practicing in advance of the contest against the Bills.

"We are hopeful that some of those players would return that are on the COVID list here in the next few days," Vrabel said.

The Titans' impressive showing against the Bills was not lost on their upcoming opponent. Given the topsy-turvy nature of a league playing under pandemic protocols, the effort resonated.

"It was a good performance by them considering what they've gone through," Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. "They looked fresh. The time off, I think they were really excited about being back on the field. I think that that gave them a lift, finally playing a game after having one moved and one pushed back, and now we're finally on the field. So, I think that they enjoyed it and appreciated being out there."

The Texans got a jolt of adversity following their first victory Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, losing linebacker Benardrick McKinney to season-ending shoulder surgery. McKinney, a sixth-year veteran out of Mississippi State, had 37 tackles through four games this season.

McKinney, 27, amassed 330 tackles while missing only two games over the previous four seasons.

"B-Mac's obviously an energetic guy," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "A hard hitter. A guy who's been in the middle for us for a long time. So, it's definitely a tough loss to lose a guy like B-Mac. We're fortunate to have T.A. (Tyrell Adams) step in and play the way he did this past week (against Jacksonville) and we hope he continues to play at that level and obviously give us that energy he had all game long and continue to move forward.

"When you lose a guy like B-Mac, who's a captain, who's a guy everyone kind of looks to and respects, it's always difficult for you."

--Field Level Media

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Last Injuries

Tennessee Titans

  • Dennis Kelly

    Prob Sun | probable

    Kelly is battling a knee injury, but he is projected to be available against the Bengals on Sunday.

  • Daniel Munyer

    Ques Sun | questionable

    Munyer is hampered by a hand injury, and it is up in the air if he will take part in Sunday's showdown versus the Bengals.

  • Tye Smith

    Ques Sun | questionable

    Smith is bothered by a shoulder injury, and it remains to be seen if he will line up against the Bengals on Sunday.

  • Senorise Perry

    Ques Sun | I-R

    Perry has been assigned to the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list with an undetermined ailment, and the team has a three-week window in order to activate him.

  • Dane Cruikshank

    Out Sun | out

    Cruikshank is dealing with a groin injury, and he will not suit up against the Bengals on Sunday.

  • Johnathan Joseph

    Prob Sun | probable

    Jospeh is ailing from an illness, but the symptoms will likely subside in time for Sunday's tilt versus the Bengals.

  • Kristian Fulton

    Out indefinitely | out

    Fulton is on the shelf with a knee injury, and he will miss an undetermined length of time.

  • Jadeveon Clowney

    Prob Sun | probable

    Clowney has a knee injury, but he is expected to play Sunday against the Bengals.

Houston Texans

  • Max Scharping

    o | I-R

    Scharping has been added to the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and there is no timetable for return.

  • Bradley Roby

    Ques Week 9 | questionable

    Roby exited the last game with a knee injury, and his return is unclear against the Jaguars in Week 9.

  • Kyle Emanuel

    Ques Week 9 | questionable

    Emanuel was lifted from the last game due to concussion-like symptoms, and it is undetermined if he will face the Jaguars in Week 9.

  • Jordan Akins

    Prob Week 9 | probable

    Akins has missed the previous three games due to a high-ankle sprain and a concussion, but it is projected that he will be ready for Week 9 versus the Jaguars.

  • Isaiah Coulter

    Prob Week 9 | probable

    Coulter has been activated from the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list after healing from a neck strain, and he is expected to return Week 9 versus the Jaguars.

  • Senio Kelemete

    Prob Sun | probable

    Kelemete is nursing a knee injury, but he is projected to take part in Sunday's contest versus the Packers.

  • Justin Reid

    Prob Sun | probable

    Reid is bothered by a shoulder injury, but he is expected to participate in Sunday's tilt versus the Packers.

  • Laremy Tunsil

    Prob Sun | probable

    Tunsil is hampered by a shoulder injury, but it is not anticipated to affect his status for Sunday's clash with the Packers.