After an injury to star rookie C.J. Stroud, the AFC South is up for grabs, so every divisional game is key. That includes Sunday’s (12/17/23) matchup between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. Get Texans vs. Titans odds, picks and predictions below. Our best bet is Texans +3.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Prediction
We have to start off by talking about the elephant in the room, or more specifically, the quarterback room. Texans sensation C.J. Stroud, who was on pace to crack or challenge just about every rookie passing record, sufffered a concussion in what was already shaping up to be an ugly performance against an inspired Jets defense. The Texans have been among the league’s biggest overachievers this season, compared to preseason expectations. But much of their meteoric rise has been driven by Stroud’s individual excellence so it will be fascinating to see how they do with Davis Mills, presumably, back at the helm.
It’s fitting that the Texans were crushing all expectations because in their own division is a team that has done nothing but come up short for over a year now, the Tennessee Titans. After finishing last year on a disastrous losing streak that caused a tremendous division lead to evaporate, Tennessee got off to a 4-8 start this year after being tabbed as a division contender once more.
This week on Monday Night Football, it looked like they were on the way to another big loss, but instead, they became the first team to erase a 14+ point deficit in the final three minutes since 2016. That ended a streak of 767 such games that finished in a non-comeback. It might be too little too late, but the massive, highly dramatic upset over the previously 9-3 Miami Dolphins could definitely cause the energy to shift, and prove to be an inflection point as the Titans grasp for positives as they prepare for next season.
The pursuit of a strong finish is especially important when bringing up a young franchise quarterback, which is what the Titans hope Will Levis will become. He showed poise and playmaking ability down the stretch in that Dolphins game, but he’s been inconsistent in his first half-dozen or so NFL starts. That’s not an uncommon issue with rookies and other young passers, but given Levis’s college track record, it’s worth wondering whether it will be ironed out, or if he’ll always just be an up-and-down player.
The Texans have their flaws but the run defense has been solid; this is a major issue for a Titans team that likes to lean on the legendary Derrick Henry, so Levis might need to have another memorable performance in order to pull off the win. While Henry has a ridiculous track record against Houston – he’s averaged over 200 ground yards in his past five games against them – it’s a new year and a new team, which he hasn’t faced yet. The Texans may not pull off the outright victory, but as underdogs of a field goal, we need to buy low on them after their worst performance of the year while simultaneously selling high on a Titans team that pilfered a very improbable win.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Prediction: Texans +3
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Best Odds
The Titans are surprisingly favored by a field goal at home against a solid Houston team, and they’re -141 on the moneyline. The Texans are sitting at +116 to win, while the total is at a deflated number of 38 given the Stroud-related uncertainty.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Key Injuries
The chief injury concern for Houston is whether or not Stroud will clear concussion protocol, but other key players like tight end Dalton Schultz and edge rusher Will Anderson are questionable as well. As for the Titans, injuries to standout d-lineman Jeffery Simmons and corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Kristian Fulton could hamper the defense.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans Key Matchups
With or without Stroud, the Texans will need to throw the football well against a Titans defense that excels against the run, while Tennessee will need another big Levis game.
Houston Texans Passing Game vs. Tennessee Titans Air Defense
Stroud has not yet been ruled out, but the Texans should plan on life without their rookie star. However, another breakout rookie is definitely going to be out, and that’s wideout Tank Dell, who is done for the year. It’s not as clear whether or not top receiver Nico Collins will make it onto the field, but it doesn’t look good for him either. Noah Brown and potentially tight end Dalton Schultz, who is a bit banged up also, will have to step up if Houston is going to stay alive in the AFC postseason race.
Luckily, even with backups, Houston might be able to compete since they’re going up against one of the five worst pass defenses by EPA, success rate and DVOA. The Titans are 29th in PFF’s coverage grade and around average in pass rush, although their pressure rate is pretty low, and will be especially weak if Simmons is out or limited.
Tennessee Titans Passing Game vs. Houston Texans Air Defense
As electric as his best moments have been, Levis still grades below-average as he struggles to consistently make good reads and throws. Of course, it doesn’t really help that DeAndre Hopkins is his only reliable target, as his 898 receiving yards outpace Chigoziem Okonkwo, who sits second on the team list, by over 500 yards. Tennessee’s o-line has also been awful, which poses a real issue for any young passer.
Houston blitzes one of the lowest rates in the league but still achieves above-average levels of pressure, although that could change if Will Anderson is out or hurt enough that he’s playing in a diminished state. The coverage unit has been a pleasant surprise, headlined by a minor breakout by cornerback Steven Nelson, as new head coach DeMeco Ryans has done a phenomenal job with this group.