Titans vs Falcons Week 4 Primer

Everyone good?

Did you successfully talk through your feelings with friends, family, and other disgruntled Titans fans? I know I did.

It was a rough night in Jacksonville for the Titans last Thursday, where they lost to a Gardner Minshew-led Jaguars team, 20-7. The defense gave up big plays early, the offense never got on the same page, and it happened on national television for the whole world to see.

But it’s over now, and the Titans players and staff had 10 days to reset and focus on getting back to a .500 record before getting back left tackle Taylor Lewan from suspension.

 This week wasn’t quite a full bye week, but having 10 days between games, especially after a performance like the one in Jacksonville, should help get the Titans back where they want to be. After all, following last season’s bye week, the Titans put up their two best performances of the season against the Cowboys and Patriots.

It’s time to look forward to the Atlanta Falcons, another team trying to fend off a 1-3 start to the season. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Game Info:

Tennessee Titans @ Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)

Game Time: Noon EDT

Location: Atlanta, GA (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

TV: CBS

TV Broadcast Crew: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, AJ Ross

Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone

Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan

Over/ Under: 45.5

Stat Corner with Matt

For the first ever Stat Corner, I wanted to compare the Titans to a team that they beat last year and whose offensive scheme has been similar to the Titans in year’s past: the Dallas Cowboys.

Under Scott Linehan, who served as the offensive coordinator in Dallas from 2015 to 2018, the Cowboys relied heavily on the man they just paid bags and bags of money, Ezekiel Elliot, and that elite offensive line. In the three years that Linehan had Elliot as his primary rusher, the Cowboys finished in the top 10 in rushing attempts in the NFL each season. That formula worked for Dallas, winning at least 9 games each of the last three years. But it was obvious Linehan’s offense wasn’t maximizing Dak Prescott’s ability, whose QBR went from 78.8 in his rookie season, to 69.5 and 56.2 in the following two seasons.

Those declining numbers were concerning enough for Jerry Jones to get rid of Linehan and his run-heavy offense, and bring in Kellen Moore, who spent just one year as the QB coach in Dallas before being promoted to offensive coordinator.

And now Prescott is one of the most efficient passers in the NFL. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the No. 2 quarterback, behind only Tom Brady. In case you were wondering, Marcus Mariota is ranked No. 18 on this list. Prescott’s 81.7 percent adjusted completion percentage is ranked first in the NFL, and his five deep passing TDs ranks second

Do we really think Prescott, who has mostly been slightly above average in his career, is now that much more talented than Mariota? I don’t.

This shows how much a play caller can help out a quarterback. Moore has implemented an up tempo, play action-based offense that caters to what Prescott does well.

The Titans, however, continue to be somewhat predictable. According to New-Age Analytical on Twitter, on early downs in neutral game scripts (win probability between 20% and 80%), the Titans pass the ball just over 45 percent, good enough to be No. 30 in the league. For reference, the Chiefs are No. 1, passing the ball in these situations 72 percent of the time (if you want to see the graphic for this stat, click here).

Now, I know what you’re saying. “Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league! Of course the Chiefs throw the ball a lot.” And you’re right. I can’t compare the Chiefs’ offense to the Titans’ offense. Two totally different schemes.

But I can compare Dallas and Tennessee. Dallas, who theoretically has a better case to be made than the Titans on being a run-heavy team, ranks fifth in this metric. Dallas, who has a more talented running back, a better offensive line, similar weapons at the receiver and tight end positions, ranks 25 spots higher than the Titans in this metric. If the Titans want to get back on track offensively, they may need to start trying to close the gap on a team that has an offensive personnel similar to their own.

And that was Stat Corner with Matt. Thanks for coming, and try not to fall asleep halfway through next time. Thank you.

Titans Injury News:

The Titans remain relatively healthy through the first three weeks of the season.

-TE Delanie Walker missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday with a knee injury, both returned on Friday and will suited up in Atlanta.

-OG Kevin Pamphile will not make his season debut this Sunday, and he continues to work back from a knee injury that sidelined him before Week 1.

-LB Wesley Woodyard returned to practice this week after missing the game in Jacksonville with a quad injury. His return should help Rashaan Evans get involved with the pass rush this week, something the Titans have been lacking the past two games.

-RB David Fluellen, LB Darren Bates, and CB Chris Milton all showed up on the injury report this week, but all three were listed as full participants in Friday’s practice.

3 Things to Watch For:

Nate Davis’ Debut: It’s rarely a good sign for your offensive line when you’re anxiously awaiting the debut of a third-round rookie guard, but here we are. In the absence of Kevin Pamphile at right guard and Davis working his way back from an injury in training camp, Jamil Douglas has had to step in and play more snaps than he or the team expected. Head coach Mike Vrabel said Friday that he’s hoping Davis can make his pro debut this Sunday, after a week where Douglas was abused by Calais Campbell in Jacksonville. Campbell finished with three sacks, four tackles for loss, and five QB hits. Hopefully Davis can help stabilize the right side of that offensive line.

Contain the Passing Game: The Titans’ defense has been the bright spot of this team through three weeks, limiting teams to 17.3 PPG (points per game). They’ll be faced with their toughest test this week, however, going up against a passing attack that, since the start of last season, is No. 4 in passing yards per game, with 291.5 ypg. The Titans’ pass defense also ranks fourth since last year in passing yards allowed per game, giving up 212.6 ypg. The result of the game could come down to the matchup between these two elite units.

A Delanie Walker Milestone: TE Delanie Walker is one catch away from 500 receptions in his career. This would make him the 16th tight end to ever reach this mark and only five away from passing Frank Wycheck. Walker came to the Titans after spending seven years with San Francisco as mostly a backup, but since arriving in Nashville, Walker has been about as consistent as anyone in the two-toned blue. This milestone will even further cement Walker into the great Oilers/Titans of all time.

Prediction: Titans 27, Falcons 20

The Titans have spent 10 days hearing about how quickly this season could go downhill after a poor performance in Jacksonville. I expect this team to come out motivated and jump on an injury-plagued Atlanta defense. I (maybe naively) trust this coaching staff to gameplan around some of the weaknesses this team has, much like they did last season in the first matchup with Houston. If not, the slope to a lost season gets that much more slippery.

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