Who likes roller coasters? Personally, I’ve never really been a huge fan. That nervous pit you get in your stomach when you get strapped in, the loud clank, clank, clank as you slowly creep towards the peak, and then those few moments of calm before you plummet towards whatever awaits you at the bottom. I will say it’s an exhilarating 2-3 minutes, but for me, it’s usually followed by nausea, dizziness and immediate regret.
And thus sums up the life of a Tennessee Titans fan.
The story of the past three seasons for Titans fans has been that of the worst roller coaster in the NFL. Inconsistency has haunted this team since 2016. Inconsistency from the coaching staff, inconsistency from the quarterback position, and this year, inconsistency from the offensive line. From the highs of beating the Eagles, Cowboys and Patriots last season, to the lows of losing to Arizona and San Francisco in 2017 to fall out of playoff contention.
This season has been no different, and now the Titans find themselves once again looking up at their rivals in the division standings trying to figure out a way to vault themselves into the playoffs. A division, remember, whose quarterbacks include a guy who got shoved into the starting role when the franchise QB retired during the preseason, a sixth-round rookie, and a young QB who struggles with a bit of inconsistency himself.
If the Titans want to fulfill their preseason mantra and really go from “Good to Great,” first they’ll need to focus on “Inconsistent to Stable.” That starts this Sunday against the Broncos.
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos (-2)
Game Time: 3:25 CDT
Location: Denver, CO (Sports Authority Field at Mile High)
TV Broadcast Crew: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, John Schriffen
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan
Over/ Under: 40.5
Stat Corner with Matt:
A major reason for the Titans’ offensive woes and something that’s been a constant talking point from the coaching staff is the inefficiency on third down. Tennessee ranks No. 25 in third down conversion rate at 32.8 percent. When asked about their shortcomings on third down, head coach Mike Vrabel has consistently said his team needs to be better on first and second down in order set themselves up better to convert third downs. This may just seem like coach speak directly from the School of Belichick, but there’s much more substance to this claim than I thought.
One of the leaders in football analytics is Warren Sharp and his website sharpfootballstats.com. Sharp has a stat called play success rate, which takes in account the situation when looking at yards gained on a play. In short, a play is labeled “successful” if it gains 40 percent of the yards to gain on first down, 60 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third down.
Everyone confused yet? Don’t be. All you need to know is that on first and second down, the Titans rank No. 31 in passing success percentage, and No. 21 in rushing success percentage. So when Vrabel says the Titans need to be more successful on first and second down, he’s absolutely right.
Setting up your offense in 3rd-and-short situations is the key to keeping drives alive, and also allows you to use the play-action game when Marcus Mariota is at his best (62.7 completion percentage, 626 yards, 12.3 yards per attempt, and five TDs). Through the first five games of the season, the Titans haven’t been able to do this, leading to the second-highest rate of 3-and-outs (29.8 percent) in the NFL.
3 Things to Watch For:
Beware of Von Miller: So in case you’ve lived under a rock for the last five weeks, the Titans’ offensive hasn’t been great. They’ve allowed 22 sacks in five games, behind only the Jets with 23. Miller has gotten off to a slow start this season with only two sacks to his name thus far, but don’t be fooled. He’s still one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the game. We saw the Titans hold Miles Garrett to zero sacks in Week 1, so we know it can be done, and it needs to be done again this week if the Titans want to leave Mile High with a win.
Score More than 20 points: In today’s NFL, you have to be able to get past the 20-point mark. Only 11 teams in the NFL average less than 20 points per game, and just two of them have a winning record (Bears and Bills). The Titans’ defense hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 20 points this year, and I don’t expect that to change this week. If the Titans can find the endzone three times, I expect them to be heading back to Nashville with a 3-3 record.
Delanie’s Streak: TE Delanie Walker has had at least once reception in every game in which he’s been active since joining the Titans in 2013, a streak that now extends to 82 games. That total puts him behind only Frank Wycheck in franchise history, who went 99 games in a row with at least one catch. Walker’s current streak is No. 6 in the NFL among active streaks, but is the longest streak among tight ends.
Prediction: TEN 24, DEN 17
The Titans’ inconsistency is almost becoming predictable, so I expect the Titans to come out in Denver and deliver a good performance, both offensively and defensively. The Broncos have some good players at the skill positions on offense and defense, but unless 2012 Joe Flacco shows up, the Titans defense should be able to make enough plays to give the offense the cushion they like to play with.