Fullback knows well that Titans remain Texans' top target

Monday, October 17, 2011 at 9:30pm

Ahmard Hall did not exactly get away from it all during the bye week.

The Tennessee Titans fullback did return to his hometown, which actually threw him directly into the fire of what waits this Sunday when the Houston Texans come to town for a critical AFC South showdown.

“I’m a Houston-area guy and I was down there the whole entire bye week,” Hall said. “They love the Texans … and they’re definitely passionate about us. I almost think they could lose every other game of the year and if they beat us they’d be happy.

“They definitely hate us. This is definitely a big rivalry game for them and they’d definitely like to come in here and beat us – period. “

The Titans, of course, came into existence more than 50 years ago as the Houston Oilers, a founding franchise of the American Football League. They remained in that city, the hometown of owner Bud Adams, until 1997 when financial considerations made it necessary for Adams to relocate the team.

This is the 10th season since the NFL’s return to that market with the Texans and the teams have played twice a season since. Tennessee leads the all-time series 13-5 but the teams have split the season series each of the last three years.

Sunday’s contest (noon, LP Field) has become one of the few between the teams with as much significance throughout the league as it has in East Texas.

The Titans lead the division by a half game over the Texans, who have lost two in a row and three of their last four.

“It’s an AFC South opponent, and we have to win the South,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “… And they’re a really good football team so we have a lot to handle.”

The Titans, likewise, lost their last time out, Oct. 9 at Pittsburgh. That left them tied with Houston entering last weekend’s games. The tie was broken when the Texans lost 29-14 at Baltimore on Sunday.

“We should probably take next week off and pick up another half game,” coach Mike Munchak said. “You are looking at that kind of thing in the division and its early, we all know that, but you would rather what’s happening happen. And we still know what we have to do this weekend.

“Starting with the Texans [we are] playing two division games in a row. We lost our first one so this game is huge for us to come out and play well against a division opponent at home.”

An opponent from the town their franchise used to call home.

“Just the rivalry in general – AFC South opponents – I think everyone gets ramped up for that,” Finnegan said. “They’re our next home game. I know everyone looks forward to that because we haven’t had a game in two weeks.”

Briefly

• Munchak said that safety Chris Hope (arm) and rookie linebcker Colin McCarthy (groin) are the team’s only injury issues coming out of the break.

Hope is not expected to play and McCarthy is considered unlikely to do so.

“I would think everybody else will be ready to play,” Munchak said.

• Munchak did not take sides in the well-documented incident between Detroit’s Jim Schwartz, a former Titans defensive coordinator, and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh related to their postgame handshake.

He implied, though, that both bare responsibility.

“It’s hard after a game when you work 100 hours a week, especially some of the coaches, and then not play well or play poorly,” Munchak said. “Obviously, you can suck it up and shake a guy’s hand for five seconds or 10 seconds.”

• The Titans will conduct a cell phone drive at Sunday’s game to benefit Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization which recycles cell phones and uses the proceeds to purchase phone cards for overseas military members.

Seven drop-off locations will operate at the stadium from 10 a.m. until kickoff.