Well, it wasn’t exactly “pretty,” but the Titans were able to pull back to .500 and stay one game back in the win column of the Colts and Texans for the AFC South lead. The offense was able to capitalize on two early Jameis Winston turnovers and, for the second straight week, Ryan Tannehill led the offense on a 75+-yard touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Tannehill’s stat line wasn’t quite as impressive as it was in his first start, but he was able to avoid mistakes and rely on his defense to force Winston into bad decisions, which they did. They’ll be facing a quarterback this week in Kyle Allen who’s coming off a game with three interceptions, so the “mistake-free offense+aggressive defense=success” formula might be rolled out again. The Panthers may not have the explosive receivers that the Bucs do, but what they do have is one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL: Christian McCaffrey.
Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
Game Time: 1 pm EDT/Noon CDT
Location: Charlotte, NC (Bank of America Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Melanie Collins
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan, Jonathan Hutton
Stat Corner with Matt:
If you didn’t read my preview last week, first of all I’m emotionally hurt and I’ll be waiting by my phone for your apology. Second of all, I focused most of it on why the Titans still have a fighter’s chance to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, this week is going to be a bit more on the gloomy side.
If you just look at the Titans’ record on face value, it’s not that bad. Having a 4-4 record at this point in the season, especially after how the Titans have looked in those losses, doesn’t spell death to your season quite yet. Only six teams in the AFC have a record above the .500 mark. But when you look at the teams the Titans have beat and their remaining schedule, it shouldn’t instill much confidence in a Titans’ fan’s soul.
The overall record for the four teams the Titans have beat (Browns, Falcons, Chargers, Bucs) is 8-22. According to Football Outsiders and ESPN, the Titans’ schedule up to this point ranked No. 26 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). So, for the Titans to be 4-4 at this point has to be a bit of a disappointment to Mike Vrabel and his staff. It’s just another reason why Marcus Mariota’s benching was more than warranted, but that’s a separate conversation.
The main reason for my pessimism for the Titans going forward is their schedule for the remainder of the season. According to ESPN, they have the sixth-hardest schedule remaining. When you look at their AFC South companions, their schedules are much more favorable. The Texans (17), Colts (21), and Jaguars (22) all rank in the back half of the league in remaining opponent DVOA. The Titans do have games remaining against their AFC rivals, so they can still make up some ground with divisional wins. But they’ve put themselves in a tough spot with matchups against the Chiefs, Raiders and Saints left looming.
3 Things to Watch For:
No Delanie, No Problem?: Please don’t misread me here. Delanie Walker has been one of, if not the, best Titans players since he came to Nashville from San Francisco. At times he’s been one of the only consistent contributors. But this week marks the second game in a row that he’ll miss due to an ankle injury. In the past, you could almost write off the tight end position for the Titans if Walker didn’t suit up. But over the past two games, Jonnu Smith has emerged as one of Tannehill’s favorite targets, totaling nine catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. This week may be tougher for Smith with Luke Kuechly, one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL, roaming the field. But Smith’s confidence is rising and Tannehill seems to like looking his way.
Logan Ryan is Good at Football: Logan Ryan had one of his best games as a Titan last week against the Bucs, totaling seven tackles, one sack, one interception, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. That brings his totals for the season to 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He’s the first NFL player since 2000 to have at least three sacks, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles in his team’s first eight games. Ryan will play a key factor in slowing down McCaffrey this week, and if his play up to this point is any indication, he’s ready to do just that. Speaking of McCaffrey…
Don’t Let McCaffrey Beat You: Christian McCaffrey is going to put up stats. He just is. As a fantasy football owner with McCaffrey on his team, I’m wholeheartedly ok with this. But you can’t let him single-handedly keep the Panthers in the game and eventually break a game-winning 60-yard touchdown run. McCaffrey is No. 2 in the NFL in yards per game (105) and No. 2 among running backs in receptions (39). In case you were wondering, that’s 11 more catches than the Titans’ leading receiver Adam Humphries. With young receivers and an inexperienced quarterback, the Panthers’ offense runs through McCaffrey, and the Titans’ defense will need to try and keep him from running through them.
My Prediction: Panthers 28, Titans 20
I think the Panthers bounce back after an ugly loss against the 49ers and handle the Titans at home with relative ease. The Titans will miss having Jurrell Casey in the middle to stop McCaffrey and the offensive line will struggle with Jamil Douglas having to fill in for Ben Jones.