In a fierce AFC South divisional battle, Marcus Mariota at the Tennessee Titans (5-5) visit DeShaun Watson and the smoking-hot Houston Texans (7-3).

Marcus Mariota
Quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) examined by medical staff after being sacked by the Indianapolis Colts. (Image: Thomas J. Russo/USA Today)

The Titans and their stingy defense are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Texans are riding high off a seven-game winning streak.

Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Houston Texans (7-3)
Kickoff: 5:15pm PT
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Point Spread: Houston -3.5
Over/Under: 42

The line moved on news of Marcus Mariota returning to the lineup. Two of the best defenses in the league slug it out in a potential low-scoring affair.

Eight in a Row?

The Texans lost their first three games of the season by a combined 15 points. That includes a Week 2 loss to the Titans. The Texans won seven in a row since then, with road victories in three of their last four games.

Over the last two weeks, the Texans won two close games by a margin of two points both times.

“I think what happens is when you’re winning, they all become more and more important,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. “I think that’s what you want. You want it that way, and we have to focus hard on the details. Winning football in November-December means that you’ve earned the right to win during the week.

Last week, the Texans beat the Redskins 23-21 in the game where Alex Smith suffered a horrible leg injury.

D Battle

Last week’s Monday Night Football match up featured two of the highest-scoring teams in the league. The Rams and Chiefs set a MNF record in a wild shootout. This week’s match up is expected to be a defensive slog. According to the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, the over/under total is 42.

The Texans defense is fifth best in the NFL with only 20.5 points allowed per game. The Titans are the second best in the league with only 18.9 points allowed per game.

Mariota Bump and Bounce

Pro quarterbacks suffer wear and tear over a season, but Marcus Mariota took a licking this season. Mariota (7 TD, 6 INTs) played through elbow and hand injuries and appeared in nine games.

The former Heisman Trophy winner received a stinger in his neck against the Colts last week. Mariota left the game when he felt numbness in his arm and hands. The numbness in his right arm subsided and with the extra day of rest, Mariota said he is ready to play on Monday Night Football.

“It definitely helps. We have an extra day to get healthy and to get our bodies right. We’ll definitely take advantage of it,” Mariota said.

McNair Legacy, Little More Juice

Texans founder and owner, Bob McNair, passed away on Friday. Current and former players shared their sentiments on social media. The best way the Texans could honor their founder would be a win on Monday Night Football.

“You’re the only one on national TV,” Texans QB DeShaun Watson said. “You get the chance to kind of show what you’ve got and what you’ve been preparing for. Every game is very important, but of course Monday nights, Sunday nights and Thursday nights have a little bit more juice.”

AFC South Battle

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the preseason favorites to win the AFC South crown. However, the Jags are in the middle of a seven-game losing streak with no relief in sight. The Texans jumped to the front of the AFC South.

The Texans have to keep an eye on the surging Indianapolis Colts. One of the hottest teams in the NFL won five in a row. Andrew Luck looks like his old self and the Colts at 6-5 are a legitimate threat to the Texans.

The Titans are currently in third place in the AFC South. A win in this key divisional match up will put them in a much better position to obtain a postseason spot. A loss is not just a setback, it could knock them out of the playoff hunt completely.