With eyes on NFL playoffs, Texans rest Watson, Hopkins in loss

HOUSTON -- Before the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans kicked off Sunday afternoon, Houston was already locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs because the Kansas City Chiefs had won.

With the game meaningless to the Texans' postseason plans, they did not play key starters in the 35-14 loss to the Titans, instead focusing on being healthy when they host the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.

Though quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were active, neither played. The offense was also without left tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Will Fuller (groin) and wide receiver Kenny Stills, who were inactive.

Houston has had a relatively healthy roster and is expected to get defensive end J.J. Watt back against Buffalo. Watt, who was on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, practiced last week and said "the plan" is for him to play in the opening round of the playoffs.

QB breakdown: AJ McCarron, who started for Watson, showed he is a capable backup quarterback, a role the Texans have struggled to fill in recent years. McCarron completed 21 of 36 passes for 225 yards and an interception and dove into the end zone in the third quarter for Houston’s second touchdown. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was McCarron’s first rushing touchdown since 2012, his junior season at Alabama.

Eye-popping stat: Duke Johnson’s touchdown run was the Texans’ first on their opening possession this season and their first in 23 games, which ended the longest active drought in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Before to Week 17, the Texans had scored only six points on their first possessions.

Bold prediction for next week: The Texans get Fuller back. Fuller injured his groin in Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there is a chance he could play against the Bills. Last week, head coach Bill O’Brien said Fuller is “day-to-day” with the injury. Whether Fuller plays could be a big deal for Houston.