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Mike Vrabel knows Houston coach Bill O’Brien pretty well after spending the past four seasons working as a Texans assistant, including 2017 as defensive co-ordinator. Now Vrabel has his own team in Tennessee, and the rookie is about to square off with his former boss looking for his first victory as an NFL head coach.

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Tennessee Titans new head coach Mike Vrabel, right, will square off Sunday against his former boss – Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien.The Canadian Press

Vrabel hopes his familiarity with Houston helps Sunday in the Titans’ home opener if only by explaining some Texans skills and tendencies.

He cautions what he knows will help only so much.

“They’ve added some new stuff, and they’re doing new things, and they’ve got some new personnel,” Vrabel said. “Hopefully, we can get prepared enough to go out and win a game on Sunday.”

When Vrabel worked for O’Brien, the Houston coach says they didn’t talk about whether the former NFL linebacker wanted to be a head coach. O’Brien says Vrabel was too busy coaching linebackers or co-ordinating the defence.

“Smart guy, leader, very, hard worker, played in the league for a long time, knows the game,” O’Brien said. “He’s got all the qualities of a head coach.”

Vrabel went winless in the preseason as he and the Titans focused on trying to get to the regular season healthy. After a 27-20 loss in Miami , the Titans put tight end Delanie Walker on injured reserve and two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan is recovering from a concussion. Quarterback Marcus Mariota also hurt the elbow on his throwing arm .

Houston has dominated this AFC South rivalry lately, but the teams split the season series last year, each winning on its home field. Houston visited Nashville last December with quarterback Deshaun Watson healing up from a torn ACL, while Mariota left the Titans’ loss in Texas with an injured hamstring.

Watson was back for the Texans’ opener, but Houston lost 27-20 at New England. The Texans are back on the road for a second straight week, and neither team can afford falling to 0-2, raising the stakes even higher.

“We want to win very badly,” Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan said. “It’s a divisional game. You don’t want to start out 0-1 in the division. You want to get some momentum and go from there.”

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