The Tennessee Titans (11-5) travel to Houston to take on the Texans in their regular season finale.
The Titans fell to the Texans back in Week 11 during a disastrous day that saw Tennessee turn the ball over five times.
Unlike that day, Tennessee is going to have most of their top weapons for this Week 18 AFC South showdown.
However, will the Titans have their biggest weapon in the season finale?
Let’s dive more into that and other intriguing storylines that are surrounding Tennessee’s crucial Week 18 matchup down in Houston.
King Henry watch is officially on
Titans’ superstar running back, Derrick Henry, is expected to make his long-awaited return later today in what may be the most anticipated regular-season practice in recent history.
Henry has been out ever since he broke his fifth metatarsal (AKA Jones fracture) presumptively early in the first quarter against the Colts back on Halloween.
The superstar running back had a successful surgery a few days later and then the Titans chose to go the radio silent route during Henry’s rehab.
Mike Vrabel provided minimal updates on how Henry was doing (shocking) while Henry was never visible to the public during games.
Fortunately, as time passed, more reports from national outlets began to confirm the growing optimism that Tennessee would have their star back for the playoffs at the latest.
Finally, the fanbase and the team received the news everyone associated with the Titans has been waiting for since we all woke up to that devastating news on November 1st.
Derrick Henry is expected to return to the practice field today after no setbacks occurred as his rehab began to ramp up its intensity.
The question now becomes whether or not the Titans choose to give Henry a few carries in their Week 18 game against Houston.
There’s an argument to be made for both sides but it really depends on what the doctors and coaching staff feel is best. Assuming he is ready to go, I personally would like to see him get anywhere from 5-10 touches just to allow him to knock off some of the rust before the playoffs.
More importantly, I’d rather him not go through his questioning phase in the middle of a playoff game. Naturally, he’s likely going to be wondering how his leg will hold up when it’s wrapped up by a defender, or when bodies fall around it, etc.
In my opinion, I’d rather him go through that phase against a team like Houston and allow him to go into the playoffs confident that his foot is fully back with no lingering doubts and/or questions.
With all that said, no one can blame the Titans if they decide to hold Henry out this week in hopes that they can beat Houston which would ultimately give the Alabama product another week off due to the bye.
However the Titans decide to approach this week with Henry will be interesting. But most importantly…
Zach Cunningham revenge game
If there’s one player that you can guarantee is hyped about the Week 18 opponent, it’s easily former Texans linebacker, Zach Cunningham.
Before the 2020 season, Cunningham signed a massive four-year deal with the team that drafted him. Unfortunately for Houston, it came to a crashing halt this season after a fantastic 2020 campaign.
Texans head coach, David Culley, was hired before the season. For whatever reason, he has seemingly struggled to develop a genuine relationship with the talented young linebacker he inherited.
It all came to a screeching end after Cunningham was benched and eventually cut following Week 13 after violating team rules that he’d already been disciplined for earlier in the season.
The Texans’ head coach also said that he didn’t feel the team’s “standards were being met consistently” and that made it an easy decision to part ways with Cunningham.
Culley took it a step further by claiming that moving on from Cunningham “wasn’t tough at all”. He also said:
“It is not about one individual. It is not about being the best player on the team. But also, being the best player for the team.”
Culley was absolutely correct. Cunningham wasn’t the best fit for the 4-12 Texans because he’s more suited to be a staple piece for a Super Caliber defense.
Since the Vanderbilt product’s arrival, he’s been a consistent force in the middle of the defense. Cunningham is still learning the defense, but he’s the type that if he’s going to make a mistake, he’s going to make it at 100 MPH.
Cunningham is relentless in his sideline to sideline pursuit. He’s totaled 16 tackles over his three games in Tennessee and looks more comfortable with each passing week.
Look for the former Texans linebacker to make a statement against his old team, and in particular, against the coach who comfortably assassinated Cunningham’s character.
One win away from the 1-Seed
The Tennessee Titans are one win away from securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.
Securing the 1-Seed is extra important these days because there’s now only one team in each conference that gets the bye week due to the recent playoff expansion to seven teams.
It cannot be overstated enough how helpful the bye week is. Teams that play on wild card weekend must win three games just to get to the Super Bowl while the teams with the bye only need three wins to WIN the Super Bowl.
From the Titans’ perspective, they have never hosted an AFC Championship at home and would only need to win one home playoff game in the divisional round against the lowest remaining seed to secure that for themselves and this fanbase.
Also, when playing at home, the Titans defense is only allowing 16.8 PPG, tied with Green Bay for best in the league (Points per game allowed at home).
Not to mention, a bye gives Derrick Henry another week to ensure he’s ready to go with no limitations once the tournament starts. It also ensures that should a rematch of the 2019 AFC Championship take place, the Chiefs would be the ones to come to Nashville rather than going to that nightmare of a place in January called Arrowhead stadium.
In order to make this a reality, they must beat the 4-12 Houston Texans team that has already beaten them this year. To simply put it, if the Texans sweep the Titans this season then they do not deserve to be the 1-Seed.