- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - As bad as the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans have been this year, there’s still good news for these two struggling teams who meet Sunday.

The rest of the AFC South isn’t exactly doing great, either. It’s the only division in the NFL that doesn’t have a team with a winning record, with the Colts leading the pack at 3-4. The Texans and the Jaguars are 2-5 and the Titans are in last place at 1-5.

“The only positive thing I can take from this whole downfall we have right now is we’re only a game-and-half behind the Colts,” Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We’re 1-5 and a game-and-half back? That normally doesn’t happen.”

Houston coach Bill O’Brien echoed Orakpo’s sentiments as it relates to his team.

“The division is up for grabs,” he said.

The Titans hope they will have rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, who missed last week’s game with a knee injury but should return. The second overall pick in this year’s draft has thrown for 1,239 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

“I think with a young player, he’s done a nice job,” Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s a tough position to play. There’s obviously things you’d like to have back or you’d like to do better, but really excited about his growth at that position and what kind of player he’s going to be.”

The Texans also have an issue at quarterback, but it’s of a much different variety than Mariota’s injury. Houston released backup Ryan Mallett on Tuesday after he missed the team charter to Miami last weekend. The situation left O’Brien to field questions whether he and general manager Rick Smith had a disagreement on releasing Mallett, who caught a commercial flight to meet the team.

O’Brien denied there was a confrontation between the two about whether Mallett should be released on Saturday, which would have left the team without a backup for the Miami game. But that doesn’t mean that they always agree on everything.

“There’s always going to be disagreements here and there throughout the year, but again, it works as a partnership,” O’Brien said. “Any decision that’s made is a collective group decision.”

Some things to know about the Titans-Texans game.

FOSTER OUT: Houston running back Arian Foster suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last Sunday. That leaves Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes to carry the running game. Blue started the first three games when Foster was out after groin surgery. His last start was by far his best, when he had 139 yards rushing with a touchdown in a win over Tampa Bay. O’Brien said without Foster all three players will get carries.

GREAT DEFENSE: Orakpo keeps insisting Tennessee has a great defense, and it’s certainly putting up some good numbers, ranking in the top 10 of a handful of categories, including second by allowing only 195.2 yards passing, and fourth in total yards allowed (324.3). The Titans held Atlanta to 10 points, well below the 30.5 points the Falcons had been averaging. “We really put an identity stamp on what we’re capable of,” Orakpo said. “We’ve been emphasizing that we want to continue that.”

CRASH COURSE: The Texans signed free agent quarterback T.J. Yates to take Mallett’s roster spot and to back up Brian Hoyer on Wednesday. Yates spent his first three seasons with the Texans but was traded to the Falcons in June 2014. He did spend a little time in O’Brien’s system when the coach first arrived and hopes things will come back to him quickly. Either way, he isn’t making any plans outside of football for the next few days.

“I’m going to be in this building nonstop until I get it down,” Yates said. “For the time being if you want to find me, I’ll be down the hall.”

PROTECT THE BALL: The Titans have lost more turnovers (13) than they’ve taken away (nine) and opponents have scored 49 points off those mistakes. They’ve turned it over at least twice in four of six games so far.

DANDY DEANDRE: Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL with 776 yards receiving and his 58 catches are the second most in NFL history through seven games. He’s had a lot of success against the Titans and finished with a career-high 238 yards with two touchdowns in the last meeting.

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AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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