Through three weeks, the Tennessee Titans are 1-2 with a couple of one-sided losses. The Titans opened up the season with a big win, but the past two weeks have been as encouraging.
Following a 26-10 beating of the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, the Titans lost at home to the Dallas Cowboys 26-10 and on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals, 33-7.
The Colts host the Titans this week and both teams are desperate to get to .500. The Titans have some big issues heading into this game, namely the health of quarterback Jake Locker (no, this isn’t a recording).
The AFC South is the gift that just keeps giving to the Colts. Regardless of what the numbers suggest, the Titans always seem to play the Colts tough.
The Titans on Offense
Much of the Titans offensive stats are skewed by a standout performance in Week One. Since then, they haven’t been nearly as dynamic. Most of the issues on offense center around the team’s quarterback.
Locker injured his wrist last week and is questionable against the Colts. Even if he does play, it likely won’t be very well. He’s thrown four interceptions in the past two weeks, sacked four times, and has just one touchdown. He’s also completing just 56-percent of his passes.
The Titans have been averaging 217 yards passing per game, 19th in the NFL, but DVOA has them at 28th. The wide receivers haven’t played all that well and the only thing saving this passing attack has been tight end Delanie Walker (17 receptions, 233 yards, two touchdowns).
The offensive line hasn’t helped much either, giving up a sack on 7.4-percent of Locker’s drop backs which is 24th in the NFL. If you think that means the Colts will find plenty of sacks, here’s some perspective: the Jaguars are giving up sacks on 14-percent of their dropbacks, worst in the NFL.
The Titans are much better when they run the ball. The line is fifth in run blocking efficiency and the Titans are averaging 131 yards per game, 11th in the league. They are also fifth per DVOA when running the ball.
The Titans are giving the bulk of the carries to Shonn Greene, but Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster are getting their touches as well. The Titans are averaging five yards per carry as well. The Titans prefer to run the ball up the middle, but are most effective when rushing off the left side towards Michael Roos.
What this means for the Colts:
A lot will depend on if Locker plays or not. The backup QB will be Charlie Whitehurst. The Titans can’t expect much out of their QBs either way and will likely load up on the run and the Colts should set up to defend against that as well. While Locker might not be very good, he still represents a better chance for the Titans to win.
The Colts are still struggling on defense, but are clearly better against the run than the pass. The Titans have only found the end zone four times and they’ve turned the ball over five times.
This will be a good test of the Colts supposedly improved run defense and another challenge for the secondary against a solid, but underperforming receiver corps. With Jerrell Freeman likely out once again, I expect Walker to run free for big gains.
The Titans on Defense
Defensively, the Titans feature what appears to be one of the better pass defenses in the league. They are currently second in passing yards allowed and are fourth against aerial attacks per DVOA.
Aside from safety Michael Griffin and second year corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson (who has been exceptionally bad at -5.4 in coverage), the Titans look good when stopping the pass. They’ve allowed just three passing touchdowns and have four interceptions.
That would be great, if the Titans weren’t putrid when trying to stop the run. They are giving up 134 yards per game (24th in the NFL) and are 3oth in DVOA against the run.
The passing numbers are skewed by opponents play calling over the past two weeks. The Cowboys and Bengals ran 79 run plays to 64 pass plays. The Chiefs were forced to pass the ball 45 times due to the score. In two game, the Titans gave up 336 rushing yards.
Nose tackle Sammie Hill has been particularly bad at stopping the run (-2.8 vs the run and -3.6 overall). The rest of the defensive line has been good against both offensive styles, but struggling at the point of attack opens up big rushing lanes.
Outside of defensive ends Casey and Ropati Pitoitua, no one on the Titans defense has been able to stop the run. Teams are finding success running to the left or far to the right side of the offensive line against the Titans. Get past the defensive line, and you can expect a big gain.
What this means for the Colts:
It’s no secret that the coaching staff wants to run the ball, and this week that actually is a good idea. The Colts are also at their best when running to the left side of the offensive line. The Titans are especially bad against power runs up the middle, meaning Trent Richardson could have a big day.
While Tennessee might appear great against the pass, that has much more to do with team’s either A) pressing (see Chiefs) or B) not need to pass a lot. Andrew Luck is easily the best QB that the Titans will have faced this season and he should find success against them.
The Colts will likely be able to use a balanced attack on offense against the Titans and come out with another convincing win.