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Gameday Starting 11: Titans-Dolphins

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11 thoughts about today’s game.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here are 11 quick thoughts and/or stats about today’s game as we get ready for kickoff in Miami.

  1. Titans should be able to run against Miami. The Dolphins run defense was middle of the pack last year (15th according to DVOA), but they lost their best run defender in Ndamukong Suh and are starting two rookie linebackers and one bad linebacker. During preseason they finished dead last in both total rushing yards allowed and yards allowed per carry. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis should have a nice game today.
  2. Containing Kenyan Drake should be a priority for the defense. Drake was tops in the NFL when it came to PFF’s Elusiveness Rating in 2017 (minimum 67 touches). It was a relatively small sample size for the Miami back who only took over the starting gig for the final 5 games, but he’s a dangerous weapon as both a runner and a receiver.
  3. Does the Dolphins home field advantage matter? Maybe. The Dolphins have won 4 of their last 7 September home games and the new shades over the stadium are designed to keep the home team sideline in the shade and the visitors in the sun during the game. However, the forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with scattered thunderstorms and a high of just 89 degrees. This won’t be the sweltering heat that we’ve seen in other early season games in Miami. The Dolphins also historically have the least home field advantage of any team in the NFL.
  4. Corey Davis vs Xavien Howard should be fun. I get that Titans fans are tired of hearing about how good Corey Davis should be, but there is a reason that everyone who watches and follows this team closely keeps talking about him. He’s easily the most physically gifted receiver on the Titans roster and he seems to have made strides since last season despite what you saw in preseason action. Today he will likely be matched up frequently with the Dolphins excellent young corner, Xavien Howard. The winner of this matchup could have a big say in the outcome of this game.
  5. Time for a big play from Adoree’ Jackson? The second of the Titans two 2017 first round picks seems poised to break out in his sophomore season. He showed tremendous improvements as the year wore on and finished ranked 12th in the NFL with 17 passes broken up. He also forced 3 fumbles and just missed several interceptions. It feels like Jackson is due to make a gamebreaking play either on defense or in the punt return game.
  6. Taywan Taylor could be an X-factor. The Dolphins secondary is pretty talented with players like Howard, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald, but they aren’t very fast. All those guys are more physical than speedy which could make this a good game to get Taywan Taylor loose over the top.
  7. Jordan Phillips is a load inside for Miami. While the Dolphins defense is generally soft against the run, Phillips is not. He’s a massive man at 6’-6” and 341 pounds and hard to move off a spot. The Titans aren’t particularly big along the interior of their offensive line besides Quinton Spain so running at Phillips would probably not be advisable.
  8. Rishard’s revenge. Matthews caught a touchdown during his first contest against his old team in 2016, but was quiet in last year’s meeting. Even a few years after leaving the Dolphins in free agency, he probably has a little extra motivation this week.
  9. Jakeem Grant needs to be contained in the kicking game. Grant took a punt to the house when the Titans played in Miami in 2016 and will likely have return duties again today. He’s lightning quick and a threat to score every time he touches it. Grant is a good comp for Titans rookie Cameron Batson.
  10. Vrabel vs Gase. Dolphins coach Adam Gase was Mike Vrabel two years ago. A hot, young coach who rose quickly through the ranks to take over a team with a promising but inconsistent young quarterback. Things haven’t quite panned out the way Gase had hoped so far, but after dumping some guys that he considered bad apples in the offseason, he is hoping buy-in and culture will make up for the lost talent.
  11. Get the penalties under control. The Titans were among the most penalized NFL teams during preseason and the Dolphins were among the least. Tennessee needs to play disciplined football and not give up free first downs or put themselves behind down and distance today. We all remember what happened in Miami last season with the refs. Hopefully this game is decided by the players.