The Tennessee Titans (10-5) ring in the New Year at Nissan Stadium as they host the Miami Dolphins (8-7) with a chance to clinch the AFC South on the line.
Miami comes to Nashville as arguably one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning seven in a row after a 1-7 start to the season. Controlling their own postseason destiny, third year head coach Brian Flores attempts to lead Miami to its first playoff appearance since 2016.
Offensively, Miami averages around 20 points per game, but has won each of their last seven games by seven or more points. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has played well since missing a few games with injury earlier in the season and has formed a great connection with his former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle.
After allowing 29.1 points per game in their first eight games, the Dolphins have improved drastically on defense, only giving up 11.7 points per game during their seven-game winning streak. The biggest strength of this defense? Rushing the passer. Leading the league with 45 sacks, the Dolphins are really good at pressuring the quarterback.
How nice was it to have A.J. Brown back on the field last week? Setting a new career high with 11 receptions, his presence created an immediate boost for the entire offense. Going against another tough pass rush this week, look for the tight ends to potentially be a little more involved in pass blocking and catching some quick hitters.
George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were the top two targets the Titans had to defend last week, and this week, it’s Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins have struggled to run the football this season, so expect the Titans to try to continue that trend with their defense that allows the second fewest rushing yards per game.
The Titans gave fans an early Christmas gift last Thursday with a victory, so let’s see if they can start your New Year out on the right foot as well.
Miami Dolphins (8-7) @ Tennessee Titans (10-5)
Game Time: 12:00 pm CDT
Location: Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Kevin Harlan, Trent Green, Melanie Collins
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Shawn Smith
Line: Tennessee -3
Over/ Under: 41
Attending the Game?
Charitable Drive: “Fill the Boot” for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (monetary donations)
12th Titan: Stephani Perkins, Titans Fan of the Year
National Anthem: Lindsay Ell
Halftime Performance: Juke of June
Three Things to Watch
Ball Security – Turnovers have been a problem for both Tennessee and Miami this season. The Titans are tied with Chicago, Kansas City, and Carolina with 25 total turnovers, which is the third most giveaways in the league, while the Dolphins are just one spot back with 24 turnovers. Taking an even closer look, fumbles have been an issue for both teams. Both squads have 11 lost fumbles, which is the third-worst mark in the NFL. For the Titans, six of their last eight turnovers have come via a loose football on the ground. Miami has recovered the fifth most fumbles (10) this season, so it will be important for the Titans to keep two hands on the football, even more so if it rains on Sunday.
Pass Protection – Between the COVID-19 List and injuries, the Titans have had to rely on more than just their five starting offensive lineman. Throughout the season, the Titans have had seven different offensive line combinations in the starting lineup. One common theme with any of the combinations is the struggle to protect the quarterback. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 45 times this season, the second most in the league (Joe Burrow, 47). The Miami Dolphins come to town with 45 sacks, the most in the NFL. Production in the ground game and some quick throws to get the ball out of Tannehill’s hand could certainly help, but at the end of the day, no matter what five offensive lineman are on the field, keeping number 17 upright has to be a priority against a defense that has 22 sacks in their last four games.
Making the Dolphins One-Dimensional – While Tua Tagovailoa does have the league’s best completion percentage at 70.1%, he does not get much help from the running game. The Dolphins are tied with Houston for the fewest yards per carry, averaging 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. Allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game in the league (86.7), Tennessee has become one of the best run stopping defenses. If the Titans were to shut down the Miami running game the way they have the last couple weeks, it would force the Dolphins to put the ball in the air and become more predictable offensively. Limiting the production of Myles Gaskin, Philip Lindsay, and Duke Johnson would allow the defensive front to turn their attention to and get after the quarterback, which they have shown they can do throughout the season.
Did You Know?
- Although this will be the 14th meeting between Tennessee and Miami in the Titans Era, this will only be the fifth time the Dolphins have visited Nashville. This will be just the third game in this series since 2004 that is played at Nissan Stadium, with eight of the last 10 having been played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The four previous trips to the Music City for the Dolphins ties New England, Los Angeles, and Denver for the fewest games played at Nissan Stadium among AFC opponents.
- One of the biggest differences in Ryan Tannehill’s game since joining the Titans is his production in the run game. During his seven seasons in Miami, Tannehill rushed for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns in 88 games with the Dolphins. In less than half the amount of games with the Titans (43), the mobile quarterback has 716 yards on the ground and 18 rushing touchdowns. In seven seasons with the Dolphins, Tannehill moved the chains 74 times on a rushing attempt. He has already picked up 67 first downs with his legs during his time in Tennessee.
- Entering Week 16, the 49ers had only allowed four third down conversions that were 10 yards or longer this season. The Titans rattled off six third-and-10-plus conversions last Thursday, which tied for the most in a game since the beginning of the 2000 season.