After a disappointing loss to the Jaguars last week, the Tennessee Titans are back. This time in Atlanta, to take on Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.
For starters, this game is big for both teams. Both teams are 1-2 and are looking to avoid a 1-3 hole early on this season. A little nugget for you, since the AFL-NFL merger, there have been only THREE teams to make the playoffs after starting 1-3.
Those teams were the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs, and the 2018 Indianapolis Colts.
To make it short, one of these 2 teams will be faced with some very tough early season adversity.
For the Titans, it’s pretty simple for them. If they win, they’ll be right back in the race for the AFC South divisional crown, and won’t be faced with a daunting task to win against Buffalo in week 5.
Did I mention that the Bills are 3-0?
The Titans can’t afford this setback, especially looking at how their schedule shakes out.
Specifically their next 5 games.
After Atlanta, the Titans play the Bills at home, the Broncos on the road, the Chargers at home, the Buccaneers at home, and the Panthers on the road.
Those 2 road games will especially be tough, considering Denver is always a hard place to play, and Carolina can be just as dangerous.
But before we can preview those games, we’ll strictly stay on Atlanta. What will be the formula for the Titans to steal a win on the road?
1. Marcus Mariota Can’t Be a Liability
I’ve started these breakdowns since week 1 with Marcus Mariota/1st team offense.
For good reason as well.
Mariota hasn’t been the gamechanger you’d want to see him be this year.
The stats will tell you otherwise though. Mariota has thrown for 704 yards, 4 touchdowns, and has completed roughly 61% of his passes.
But instead of those stats accurately portraying his play, they haven’t. In fact, Mariota has left plenty explosive plays on the field. Which could explain why the numbers of Corey Davis and Adam Humphries have been unexpectedly low.
There has been countless times Mariota has missed Corey Davis for touchdowns. Adam Humphries hasn’t been the chain mover the Titans paid him to be as well. Though that can be tied to the Titans asking Humphries to help in pass protection way more than he should.
Mariota will have to play well on Sunday and give his defense a chance. If he can’t, then this game will turn out to be a very long one for the Tennessee Titans.
2. How Will The Titans Defend Julio Jones?
I mean what more can you say.
He’s one of football’s best offensive weapons and can completely take over a game by himself. So how will the Titans defend him since he can take the top off of any defense you throw at him? Kevin Byard, arguably the game’s best safety, can be one answer.
But Titans DC Dean Pees has an answer as well.
#Titans DC Dean Pees on defending @AtlantaFalcons WR @juliojones_11
Pees says he thinks Julio might be the top receiver in the league pic.twitter.com/XtWwibWV9a
— Nashville's #1 Sports Station (@1045TheZone) September 26, 2019
You can say it enough, the Titans will have their hands full on Sunday trying to limit Julio’s explosive play potential. If the Titans can’t keep him somewhat in contain, the other weapons in Mohammed Sanu and Calvin Ridley will begin to get very good looks.
Even Austin Hooper, one of the more underrated TEs in football, will start to get his way across the middle of the field.
So it’s very important that the Titans keep any catch Julio Jones makes in FRONT of them. Or they’ll be seeing him breeze off to the endzone time and time again.
3. Titans’ Offensive Line Needs to Play Better
While the talk of the offense has been Marcus Mariota and his subpar play, the offensive line has been a big reason why this offense looks as disorganized as it is.
Without Taylor Lewan, Dennis Kelly has struggled against speed rushes, letting pass rushers get in the pocket before Marcus Mariota can even begin to think.
It’s not just him who’s had their fair share of mess ups in pass protection. Roger Saffold has looked shaky at times, Jamil Douglas has played poorly as a fill in for Kevin Pamphile. He’s looked so bad that rookie Nate Davis could see his first NFL action on Sunday.
Bottom line is that this group needs to play much better. If they do, this offense could look at *tad* bit better in the passing game. If not, then Marcus Mariota will be laying on a lot of turf.
As the Falcons boast an impressive group of pass rushers in Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley Jr., and Grady Jarrett.
Watch out to see how this group plays against a great group of Falcons pass rushers.