Will he play, or won’t he?
That’s the question surrounding Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose availability going into his team’s meeting with the host Houston Texans on Sunday is still up in the air.
Tannehill sprained his right ankle during the fourth quarter of a 19-10 home win last week over Indianapolis and missed just one play. But Tannehill was clearly not 100 percent after the injury, and he’s a quarterback who needs mobility to be at his best.
Tannehill has started 49 games for Tennessee, going 34-15 in that span. His status is especially important this week since the Titans’ No. 2 quarterback is rookie Malik Willis and the No. 3 is Logan Woodside, who’s on the practice squad.
Tannehill was in a walking boot after last week’s game and got out of it on Wednesday. While he wasn’t providing many specifics about the injury, he was optimistic that he’d be able to go on Sunday, even though he didn’t practice on Wednesday.
“I am better than I was after the (Colts) game,” Tannehill said. “I am headed in the right direction. I have a little ways to go, but I’ve been better, been worse, and I’m headed in the right direction.
Not only is Tannehill heading in the right direction, but Tennessee is as well. The Titans (4-2) have won four straight wins after an 0-2 start they are 1 1/2 games ahead of Indianapolis, with a season sweep of the Colts giving the Titans any tiebreaker advantage.
Defense and the running game have fueled the Titans’ surge. They’ve allowed just 16.5 points per game during the winning streak, while Derrick Henry has cranked it up in that span. He’s averaging 107.3 yards per game, including a season-high 128 on 30 carries against Indianapolis.
While the Titans are once again atop the AFC South, Houston (1-4-1) is ensconced in the basement. Last week’s 38-20 loss in Las Vegas was its fourth in five games and one that could have gone either way going into the fourth quarter.
Leading 20-17 after three periods, the Texans couldn’t finish off the Raiders. Instead, they coughed up three touchdowns as Josh Jacobs, who rushed for 143 yards, scored on runs of 7 and 15 yards. A pick-6 capped the disastrous quarter.
Jacobs having such a big day is certainly a concern for Houston, particularly since it’s facing Henry, who has saved some of his biggest games in recent years for his division rivals. In 10 career games against the Texans, Henry is averaging 103.5 rushing yards while scoring nine touchdowns.
“To try to stop a guy like Derrick Henry or just any good back, just making sure we’re in our own gaps, doing our own job,” Houston defensive lineman Rasheem Green said. “Making sure we do a good job of tackling this week.”
Houston also needs help from an offense that’s tied for 28th in scoring at 17.7 points per game. The Texans have talented weapons in rookie running back Dameon Pierce (504 rushing yards), second-year quarterback Davis Mills (1,350 passing yards) and veteran receiver Brandin Cooks (28 catches, 281 yards), but still rank just 25th in total offense.
Tennessee leads the all-time series 22-18. The teams have split 20 games in Houston, with the Titans pulling out a 28-25 win in January.