Titans – Chargers Recap
We've already discussed plenty from the Chargers-Titans match-up from last week. Here are a few things we can take away from that game as it pertains to the Titans going forward:
1) Jake Locker can lead this team to wins.
2) The Titans defense continues to impress.
3) The offensive line needs to continue to jell.
Jets – Bills Recap
Here are a couple of takeaways from the Jets last game against the Bills as well:
1) Geno Smith is a double-edged sword. He is boom or bust down the field so far this year.
2) The Jets have a solid front four.
3) They want to run the ball, and they are going to use Powell to do it.
Titans – Jets, Sunday 4.05pm EST
The offense is where I want to start this week. Before the season began every segment or news clip regarding the Titans involved the team going only as far as Jake Locker can take them. Three weeks into the season, Locker is coming off his best performance to date, a +4.6 per PFF, and is one of only thee starting Quarterbacks to have not thrown an interception, along with Peyton Manning and Alex Smith. The best part of this is that, unlike Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, etc, Locker isn't simply being asked to make the easy short throws and the check-downs, he has been throwing the ball at every level, making good decisions, and showing poise under the gun. Now, as far as this week goes, Locker figures to be under greater pressure from a Jets front four that dominated the Bills last week. A word of caution on this: it seems like the entire league is smitten with Muhammad Wilkerson after his performance last week, but his play came against LG Colin Brown, who sports an anemic -23.7 rating per PFF through three weeks, one of the worst league-wide (We're talking Leroy Harris numbers). We'll see how he fares against much better competition in Andy Levitre. Rob Turner, facing his former team, has already given up five sacks this year so far, and is the only Titans offensive lineman to grade negatively in the run game. His battle against Sheldon Richardson (+2.6) will no doubt be a huge factor.
At the skill positions, the Titans has themselves a great game against the Chargers, led by an inspired showing by Nate Washington. The Jets boast a better stable of Corners than the Chargers at this point though, with Milliner and Cromartie, but much like the Titans with CB Coty Sensabaugh, they haven't played nearly as well when it comes to defending the slot. Kyle Wilson pulled a Britt last week, racking up five penalties and a paltry -3.7 grade. I can see Kendall Wright giving him trouble, and that will definitely be an area to watch this week. I'm not even going to go into the Britt situation. He figures to be limited through injury, and most of you here already know how I feel about it. Delanie Walker is becoming a favorite target for Locker as well, and is shaking off the rust of a missed-preseason. His role only figures to increase down the line.
In the running game, CJ has been the most disciplined we've seen in a long time, if not ever. He was picking up good yardage against the Chargers last week, and has been consistently taking what the defense gives him. The more Locker develops and this passing game clicks, the less blitzes and 8-in-the-box looks CJ will face. Now, he did leave some yards on the field last week and has yet to explode for one of his signature gallops, but I don't think it is a cause for concern. Picking up yardage and moving the chains, especially in Shonn Greene's absence, is what will keep this offense humming. The big burners will come.
Up front, things will be interesting this week. Jurrell Casey, who has been sensational this year so far with a +4.4 grade per Pro Football Focus, will be ever important for the Titans game-plan on defense Sunday. He figures to be matched up with the former Steeler Willie Colon who has played well so far, and has been a big part of the Jets running game which racked up 150+ yards last week. The Jets single weak link in the run game has actually been the Center, Nick Mangold, who has been a premier player for a long time, but has struggled to generate push in the early goings this year. Casey is going to need some backup from the other interior guys like Martin, Johnson, and Klug this week to exploit that and force the Jets offense to move the ball through the air.
On the back end, the Titans need to remain disciplined. The Jets have lived and died with the deep ball so far, and huge YPC numbers from both Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill testify to that. That said, the rookie QB Geno Smith has also thrown plenty of errant passes, and he's been punished for it to the tune of 6 interceptions. Alterraun Verner, who STILL ranks as the No.1 corner in the NFL, figures to take the left side of the field away from the Jets. In the void, Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg would be wise to target the left side, and particularly the slot, where Coty Sensabaugh has given up a lot of completions. So watch out for Jeremy Kerley in this one (Did I really just say that?).
The Titans veteran corps of safeties will have to be diligent. Griffin has played well this year with less responsibility on his shoulders, and has yet to surrender any significant plays down his side of the field. Pollard, who leads the team in tackles so far, will continue to have a role in stopping the running game this week. I would actually expect to see more of Wilson in this one, especially later in the game. He has been phenomenal in limited snaps so far and may play a bigger role in preventing the deep ball. So far the Titans have shown the capability to deal with fast outside wideouts so I think the trend will continue this week.
I think this game is the Titans best chance to put a big win on the board so far this year. While the Jets are a tough squad, especially on the defensive side of the ball, I don't think they are as physical as the Titans, who have man-handled every opponent they have played in the trenches for long stretches. I think this game comes down to pressure on the Quarterbacks, and so far this year Jake Locker has simply played better with the heat on him than Geno Smith has. With the ball controlling ways on Loggains and co, it will only take a turnover or two to take this game out of the Jets' reach. That said, no game in the NFL, this one included, is a gimme. With LP field rocking, however; I think the hometown Titans take this one.