Titans vs. Saints: Week 16 Primer

Please, whatever you do, don’t listen to “Titans Twitter.” Sunday’s loss to the Texans was not a “typical Titans loss.”

The Titans didn’t show up flat and get blown out by an inferior team. That, to me, is a “typical Titans loss.” Sunday was not that.

Was it disappointing? Yes. Were there decisions made during this game that didn’t make sense? Absolutely (looking at you, fake punt). But to me, the Titans were the better team a majority of this game. If Anthony Firkser holds onto the ball and falls into the endzone instead of losing control when he gets hit, essentially gifting the Texans an interception and an 88-yard return, which set up a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills, I believe the outcome of the game is different.

With a hobbled Derrick Henry, the Titans’ offense was still able to outgain the Texans’ offense 432-374. The defense made plays, Ryan Tannehill played a good game, and AJ Brown continued to proves he’s one of the best rookie receivers in the league.

But the Texans, when healthy, have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL, and they proved it in the fourth quarter. Free of the double team the Titans threw at him most of the game, DeAndre Hopkins dominated the fourth quarter against a secondary full of role players that were thrust into starting roles.

Yes, it was disappointing to lose that game on Sunday, and the Titans now need help to secure a spot in the playoffs, but in no way was this a “typical Titans loss.” They need to get healthy, specifically Derrick Henry and Adoree Jackson, but the Titans are still very much in the playoff hunt and nothing that I saw on Sunday made me think the last seven weeks was a fluke.

Game Info:

New Orleans Saints (-2) @ Tennessee Titans

Game Time: Noon CST

Location: Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)

TV: FOX

TV Broadcast Crew: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Sara Walsh

Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone

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

Over/ Under: 49.5

Stat Corner with Matt: 

The Titans’ struggle to find and develop wide receivers since moving to Tennessee is well documented. Tyrone Calico. Justin Hunter. Dorial Green-Beckham. Kendall Wright. The list goes on.

That drought has seemed to come to an end with AJ Brown. Brown totaled a career-high eight receptions on Sunday for 114 yards and one touchdown, marking his second 100+ yard game in a row. It’s the first time since Nate Washington in 2013 that a Titans’ receiver eclipsed the century mark in two straight games.

Brown leads the Titans in most receiving categories: receptions (47), yards (843), touchdowns (7), and average yards per game (63.8). He’s also started to move up the list of NFL rookie receivers since 1970. With four 100-yard games, he currently ranks No. 7 among rookie receivers since 1970. Odell Beckham Jr. tops the list with seven such games in 2014, but with two games left, Brown still has time to move up the list. Brown also passed his former Ole Miss teammate DK Metcalf for the lead in receiving yards among rookies with his performance on Sunday.

If Brown is able to stay healthy (knock on every piece of wood within arms distance) and continues to get good quarterback play, he has shown he has the ability to be the best wide receiver to put on the two-toned blue in a long time.

3 Things to Watch: 

PLAYOFFS?!: I know the Titans’ hopes of winning the AFC South took a serious hit last week, but their playoff hopes are still very much alive. I know by this point you probably know the things that have to happen for the Titans to make the playoffs but I’m still going to tell you just in case.

Scenario 1: if the Titans win both remaining games and the Texans lose both, the Titans win the AFC South.

Scenario 2: if the Titans lose in Wk 16 and win Wk 17 and the Steelers lose one of their remaining two games, the Titans take the final Wild Card spot.

Scenario 3: If the Titans win both games, the Texans lose both games, and the Chiefs lose both games, the Titans get the No. 3 seed in the AFC.

You’re welcome.

Michael Thomas gets the double treatment: It was announced Friday that Adoree Jackson will miss Sunday’s game, making it the third game in a row Jackson will sit out with a foot injury. We saw last week that the Titans’ plan to double DeAndre Hopkins worked in limiting Hopkins for the first three quarters, but ran into trouble when Will Fuller consistently beat Tye Smith in 1-on-1 coverage. I expect the plan to be the same this week when facing Michael Thomas, who leads the NFL in just about every possible receiving category this season. Whether or not it works better this week may just be the key to the game.

Is Derrick Henry Healthy?: Well, he was a full participant in Friday’s practice. It’s a step in the right direction, but after watching Henry play on Sunday, it was painfully obvious that his hamstring was limiting what Henry could do. He still finished runs with pop, but there was no breakaway speed when he found open space. The Titans will need that for their offense to operate as designed, and they’ll need their offense to be fully operational if they want to hang with Drew Brees.

My Prediction: Saints 28, Titans 24

With no Adoree Jackson, I can’t see how the Titans defense will be able to slow down Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Jackson provides them with speed they don’t otherwise have. I do think the Titans’ offense will be able to move the ball, so if they can play a mistake-free game, they’ll have a shot in the fourth quarter. I just don’t see a mistake-free game coming.

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