(AP) — The Houston Texans are trying to overcome mounting absences as they near another playoff appearance and a franchise milestone, while the Tennessee Titans have made a coordinator change while attempting to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.
The Texans can clinch their second straight playoff berth with a win or tie Sunday when they visit Tennessee, where they’ve won two of the last three meetings.
A win would also give Houston (10-1) 11 victories for the first time in franchise history. As good as the Texans have been – winning five straight to maintain the AFC’s best record – injuries continue to add up and the squad has needed overtime to scrape by mediocre teams each of the last two weeks.
Houston’s sixth-ranked defense, which allows 319.7 yards per game, has seen its linebacking corps in particular come under siege. Brooks Reed will miss time with a groin injury suffered in the team’s 34-31 win in Detroit on Thanksgiving, and Bradie James is also out with a hamstring injury.
All-Pro linebacker Brian Cushing was already lost for the season to a knee injury Oct. 8. The 458 yards allowed to Jacksonville two weeks ago and the 525 given up to the Lions are the two highest totals yielded by Houston this season.
“I’m concerned about the health of our team right now,” said coach Gary Kubiak, who will also be without cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring). “But that’s part of this business this time of year, so we’ve got to figure out a way to be as good as we can be on Sunday. It’s something we’ve got to deal with.”