The Tennessee Titans enter their season finale needing a victory and plenty of help to reach the postseason.
The AFC South champion Houston Texans hope they won't be carrying a three-game losing streak into their first playoff appearance.
Tennessee visits slumping Houston on Sunday hoping to set up a rematch in the wild-card round the following week, though the Titans will have to contend with Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The Titans (8-7) avoided a third straight loss with a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville on Saturday, staying in the hunt for their first trip to the playoffs since 2008.
In order for that to happen, though, plenty more than a Tennessee victory needs to take place Sunday, with the Titans also requiring Baltimore to defeat Cincinnati. Then a victory by the New York Jets coupled with a loss by Oakland or Denver, or a loss by the Jets paired with victories by Oakland and Denver, would give Tennessee the last wild card.
If any of those scenarios occur, Tennessee would return for a matchup with Houston, which has locked up the AFC's No. 3 seed.
''We hope that we have that problem, that we have to reorganize for that one,'' coach Mike Munchak said. ''We'll take that gladly. So we're going to do everything it takes to win.''
One thing helping the Titans is that the Texans seem to be only a shell of the team that routed Tennessee 41-7 on Oct. 23.
Houston got 234 total yards and three touchdowns in that contest from running back Arian Foster, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl on Tuesday.
That victory began a club-record seven-game winning streak for the Texans (10-5), though they've lost two straight since clinching their first division title with a 20-19 win at Cincinnati on Dec. 18.
Houston allowed a touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining in a 19-16 loss Dec. 22 to lowly Indianapolis despite 158 yards and a touchdown rushing from Foster.
''I just think somebody's got to make that play. It's almost like responsibility and that's the way I talked to the team,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''Defensively, you need one interception, one sack, one strip. Somebody's got to take the responsibility, step up and make that play. We just got to look at ourselves and be willing to step and do those things that would've got you out of there with a win.''
Houston received the news Friday that Johnson will make his return for this game, though he'll be on a play count. Johnson has played only six games this season after missing six in a row with a right hamstring injury that required surgery.
"It was all depending on how the week went and everything went fine this past week, so I'll be able to go out and play a little bit on Sunday,'' Johnson said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who underwent kidney surgery Dec. 15, could also be back. Phillips has been the architect of Houston's second-ranked defense that allows 280.7 yards per game.
Tennessee, though, compiled 407 yards in the win over Jacksonville, good for its second-highest total of the season. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 350 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook in the first quarter.
However, that is Hasselbeck's only scoring pass compared to four interceptions over his last two games. He completed only 46.7 percent of his passes for 104 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the first meeting with the Texans.
Houston is tied for second in the league with 184.0 passing yards allowed per game.
Chris Johnson ran for 56 yards against Jacksonville, leaving him 14 short of his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He was held to 18 yards on 10 carries in the first meeting.
The Texans have won four of six meetings between the teams but have not swept the season series since 2004.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sports & Recreation/American Football
- Tennessee Titans