The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans will meet this Sunday at NRG Stadium in the 31st encounter between the AFC South rivals.
The Titans are perhaps the Texans’ biggest rivals due to their history as the Oilers, whose departure from Houston in the late 1990s drew ire from many Houstonians. As such, those who adopted the Texans as their new favorite team after their inception in 2002 have often expressed severe dislike of the Titans’ faithful and the team itself.
The Titans lead the series with 16 wins. The teams have never shared a tie, nor met in the postseason (unsurprisingly given the ineptitude of the AFC South for much of the past 15 years.) The Titans won the first four meetings of the teams against a Texans roster lacking in talent and depth.
The 2004 season signaled a brief change in fortune, with the Texans defeating Tennessee on the road and at home, each victory by a 10-point margin. However, the next seven matchups fell in favor of the Titans, including an overtime tilt in October of 2006 at Reliant Stadium which would end up 26-20.
At the end of the 2007 season, the Titans held a 10-2 series record and would consider the Texans one of their favorite opponents. The pair would split the series in 2008 and 2009, including a 2009 34-31 victory in Nashville orchestrated by Matt Schaub, who tossed four touchdowns, two to Andre Johnson.
The most memorable moment in the history of the rivalry came in 2010. On November 28th, with the Texans leading 17-0 in the fourth quarter, defensive back Cortland Finnegan chose to attack Johnson after being thoroughly bested on the previous run play, striking the receiver. Johnson would respond by ripping Finnegan’s helmet off, before having his ripped off also. Johnson would wrestle the corner to the ground and unleash a series of blows to the head of the smaller man. Both would be ejected from the game. The Texans would ultimately produce the sole shutout in series history, 20-0.
Since 2011, the Texans have won 9 of the 12 games contested. Each of the last five home games ended in Houston victories, including a 45-21 drubbing engineered by a career day from Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran quarterback would throw 6 touchdowns, with DeAndre Hopkins catching 9 balls for 238 yards and J.J. Watt adding his own receiving score to a dominant two-sack defensive performance.
The Titans have not yet won against Bill O’Brien in a meaningful game. Last season’s Week 17 home victory came after the Texans had already qualified for the playoffs and in which some starters were rested. The Texans have only met Marcus Mariota once, however, in the four meetings since the rising star entered the league. Houston will have to deal with his running ability and red-zone prowess in addition to his live and accurate arm.
The Texans will have confidence in their ability to get the win on Sunday, ergo, despite entering the game as underdogs. Their recent home dominance suggests Tennessee faces a tough task if they are to best Houston Sunday afternoon.