Both the Tennessee Titans (9-5) and the San Francisco 49ers (8-6) will be home for the holidays, but not before a Thursday Night Football Christmas Eve Eve gathering at Nissan Stadium.
Following a 3-5 start, San Francisco has rattled off five wins in their last six games and is currently sixth in the NFC playoff standings. Three teams are directly behind the 49ers with seven wins each, so San Francisco must continue their winning ways to feel comfortable about their postseason eligibility.
Averaging 29.2 points per game over their last six outings, the 49ers offensively have been rolling. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been super efficient with the league seventh best passer rating and is surrounded with weapons. Tight end George Kittle has been a primary target in the passing game along with the versatile wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who has a rushing touchdown in five straight games to go along with a 1,000 yard receiving season.
The San Francisco defense is led by Nick Bosa, whose 15 sacks account for more than half of his team’s 27 total sacks. Overall, it is a unit that is pretty good at stopping the run. During this last six game stretch, the 49ers are 5-0 when they have held their opponent to under 100 rushing yards.
As for the Titans, boy, how big would it they are able to get A.J. Brown back this week? Once Julio Jones exited the game early last week in Pittsburgh, the passing game was not the same, while at the same time, D’Onta Foreman and the rushing attack surpassed 200 rushing yards for the second time in the last three games. This will be a bounce back opportunity for the offense.
On the other hand, the defense continues to play well even in difficult situations. All four turnovers last week placed the Steelers in Titans territory, but the Tennessee defense forced field goals each time. They will have their hands full this week with what has recently been a very efficient offense. It will be fun to watch how defensive coordinator Shane Bowen defends two terrific playmakers in Samuel and Kittle.
Primetime football in Nashville to kickoff Week 16 in the NFL. We should have a great game between two teams who are looking to improve their playoff positioning heading into the final two weeks of the season.
San Francisco 49ers (8-6) @ Tennessee Titans (9-5)
Game Time: 7:20 pm CDT
Location: Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)
TV: NFL Network & FOX 17 (Nashville)
TV Broadcast Crew: Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Pam Oliver, Kristina Pink
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Shawn Hochuli
Line: San Francisco -3.5
Over/ Under: 44.5
Attending the Game?
Charitable Drive: Snacks for The Bridge Ministry
12th Titan: Surprise guest
National Anthem: Mandisa
Halftime Performance: Titans Light Show Extravaganza presented by BETMGM
Three Things to Watch
Winning First Down – Last week against Pittsburgh, the Titans had great success limiting the Pittsburgh offense on first down, which put the Steelers behind the chains and off schedule. Ultimately, Pittsburgh finished the game 2/11 on third down and went three-and-out five times. A similar outcome would be ideal this week against a very efficient 49ers offense. Entering Week 16, San Francisco averages nearly six yards per play, which is second best in the NFL. Keeping the 49ers off schedule would limit how San Francisco uses their playmakers and could force a creative offense to be a little more predictable.
Running Game – Both Tennessee and San Francisco are in the top ten in the NFL for rushing yards per game. Even with their top running backs on the Reserve/Injured list, Derrick Henry and Darrynton Evans for the Titans and Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon for the 49ers, both teams are built to run the football. Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, the Titans have the second best run stopping unit in the league, giving up just 86.9 rushing yards per game. In the past two games, Tennessee has given up a combined 43 total rushing yards. The running game will be big for both teams on Thursday night.
Production in the Passing Game – Injuries have had a major impact throughout the season on the Titans, but most recently, the passing game has suffered the most. Julio Jones exited the game early last week with a nagging hamstring injury, while A.J. Brown has missed the last three games while on IR. In the three games without Brown, Ryan Tannehill has passed for 437 yards, 145.7 yards per game, one touchdown and two interceptions. There is not one clear, specific problem to point to that would immediately fix the passing game, but the Titans must find a way to be productive in the air to complement a running game that has had recent success. It is not just improvement from one person that is needed; it will require a complete team effort from all 11 players on the field to revive what has been a productive passing attack in the past.
Did You Know?
- Having played against the 49ers three times in his career while with Atlanta, Julio Jones has put up impressive numbers in each outing. Jones has caught 10 or more passes and eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards in all three games against San Francisco. In two of the three matchups, Jones pulled in multiple receiving touchdowns.
- This matchup with San Francisco will be the first time in franchise history that the Titans will play an NFC opponent on a Thursday that is not Thanksgiving Day. The Oilers/Titans have played a total of 23 games on a Thursday and have matched up with an NFC team five times on Thanksgiving, but have never faced an out of conference opponent on Thursday Night Football.
- Now in his fourth season as the Titans head coach, Mike Vrabel will have coached against all other 31 NFL teams after Thursday night. San Francisco is the only team in the league Vrabel has not faced since he was named head coach in 2018.