Titans (38) - Jets (16) recap
There are some takeaways of note from the Titans game against the Jets last week.
1. Jake Locker is the real deal. I will say no more.
2. The Titans defense is playing it's best football in years.
3. The running game needs to improve, as in yesterday.
Chiefs (31) - Giants (7) recap
1. The Chiefs are going to do all they can to put themselves in a position to rush the passer.
2. Alex Smith is still a game manager, and I'm not sure he can put a team on his back to win.
3. They have explosion in all three phases: Charles on offense, Houston and Berry on defense, and McCluster on Special Teams.
We'll begin with the most noticeable difference this week (to Titans and Chiefs fans alike): Ryan Fitzpatrick. Last week he came off the bench cold, but still completed some nice passes down the field. He will have to be as careful as Locker has been this season as far as protecting the football. Jake Locker had guided the Titans so far this year and put them in a position to win games, getting the sixth-highest (+7.6) grade among quarterbacks.He has been the only QB not to turn the ball over in any fashion this year. Fitzpatrick will have to do his best Locker impression against the Chiefs, since a single bad mistake could be a nail in the coffin.
The offensive line will have to be on the top of their games against an impressive front seven. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will be a tough pill to swallow rushing off the edge on passing downs, both are grading at high levels in that aspect (+4.3 and +3.1 respectively).
Notably, the interior players will have to help open some lanes for CJ to take some heat off Fitzpatrick and keep the offense out of 3rd and long passing situations. One thing that could work in the Titans favor in this regard: The Chiefs have operated out of the Nickel or Dime on over 69.5% of plays, which should keep the big bodies off the field. Against these formations, the Chiefs are allowing almost 7.5 yards a clip. This is when Fitzpatrick's veteran play diagnosis will come into play, and I expect him to check to the run when the Chiefs show that defensive set.
In the passing game, the Titans WRs will be matched up with a combination of Dunta Robinson, Sean Smith, and rookie Marcus Cooper, who had a fine start (+1.8 per PFF) last week in place on injured Brandon Flowers. Flowers may or may not play at this point. Dunta Robinson has fallen off a cliff so far this year, grading out as one of the worst players in coverage, which is in stark contrast to what I personally had expected of him. Sean Smith is playing well at present as well, and Fitzpatrick will have to be careful where he and former Vol Eric Berry are concerned.
The Titans defense has been better than anyone expected through the season's first month. They have played great football, generating turnovers at a high rate. Along with an offense that has yet to turn the ball over, the Titans are tied with a league high TO differential at +9 (which KC). The Titans front four should match up well against a Kansas City line that has had it's fair share of troubles. Left Guard Geoff Schwartz and Center Rodney Hudson struggled last week again the Giants but have been solid so far this year. Meanwhile the rookie Tackle Eric Fisher (Urk Fishur to Mayock-files out there) hasn't been the bright spot he was expected to be. Worse yet, Fisher went down with an injury and his status for the Titans game is in doubt. Morgan vs Fisher (or his backup Donald Stephenson) will be a battle to watch.
Zach Brown and co. will have the responsibility of containing Jamaal Charles this week. Charles has been steady thus far this season on the ground, and a major impact in the passing game in a void left by the Chief's Wrs, who have been more than a little inconsistent this year so far. If Brown, Ayers, and this Titans front four can hone in on Charles, it will focus Smith to target the outside receivers, and that will play right into the hands of Verner and McCourty. That will be the key to stalling this KC offense. Just as visiting AP'ers have confidence in stopping the Titans O, I have faith that the Titans defenders can get the job done on the day.
While Reynaud has been busy making a fool of himself (except for last week), the Chiefs have been benefiting from excellent return play from Dexter McCluster. The Titans have been very good on kick and punt coverage, and they will have to be in this game where I feel field position will be all-important.
This is no doubt going to be a physical, defense dominated game. For the second straight week it's going to come down to which QB can break through. For obvious reasons, I have more faith in Fitzpatrick in this regard. The Titans D has made a name for itself so far this year in closing down and tackling well to get off the field, and I feel Alex Smith lacks the ability to make enough plays down the field to stretch this defense. That said, turnovers will be king, and that could go either way. I see a lot of field goals and a lot of jostling for field position. I have to give the nod to the Titans at home, but only by a sliver.