1. Ben Tate
Tate is returning to the field for the first time in a month. The Texans have gone 4-0 while he’s been sidelined with a strained hamstring and Justin Forsett has played well as Arian
Foster’s backup. But Tate is still a valuable part of Gary Kubiak’s offensive gameplan and his importance will only grow as the season rolls into December and January.
With Titans MLB Colin McCarthy out with a concussion, the Texans should be able to run the ball between the tackles Sunday. Foster will still get the bulk of the workload but Tate should be more effective than Forsett in pounding the ball up the middle. If Tate is fully back and runs well Sunday, the Texans should roll to an easy victory.
2. Daryl Sharpton
Sharpton has been thrown right back into the fire with Brian Cushing and Bradie James both injured. He’ll need to be on his game Sunday against Chris Johnson and Tennessee’s revived running game. Even with all of their LBs healthy, Sharpton is the best player on the roster to match up with Johnson’s gamebreaking speed. If he can keep CJ2K from running wild, the Texans should be able to rattle Jake Locker again and lock up their second straight playoff berth.
3. Whitney Mercilus
With Brooks Reed out, this is Mercilus’ big chance to show why the Texans drafted him in the first round even though they appeared set with two solid OLB’s, Connor Barwin and Reed, already on the roster. If Mercilus proves to be an effective pass rusher over the next few games, it could spell the end for Barwin’s time in Houston. Barwin is set to be a free agent, and the Texans may let him walk if they know they have a competent and cheaper young player ready to take over his spot.
Follow Robert Henslee on Twitter: @SportsRadioRH