NFL Week 6 Preview: Tennessee Titans
It's that way in reality, too – and not just for the Titans. And even though before the season a game featuring Tennessee and Jacksonville may not have seemed a huge game on a national or even an AFC South scale, such is the nature of the crazy, parity-driven AFC South.
The Titans and Jaguars will play a nationally-televised game Monday night. And the winner will have at least a share of the AFC South lead.
For the Titans, it's very much a chance to show a national audience that they are legitimate playoff contenders, and it's also a chance to establish some consistency. While the Titans have won three games, they have yet to win back-to-back games, their 2010 season has been a mix of impressive performances and blown opportunities.
The Titans have won three games, nearly came back to tie Pittsburgh in Week 2, then squandered a late lead against Denver in Week 4. That's how close they are to unbeaten.
At the same time, they are still looking for a consistent running and passing game. Despite a strong pass rush, they still have issues stopping the pass. In that sense, the Titans are much like the rest of the AFC South and the rest of the NFL, a team with a lot of potential that needs to improve before the postseason push.
A victory Monday would be a step in that direction.
The opponent: at Jacksonville (3-2).
The trend: For the Titans, the trend this season is there is no trend. They won their regular-season opener, then they followed that with a loss, a victory, a loss and finally, a 34-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday. Like much of the NFL, and particularly like the rest of the AFC South, it is difficult to tell exactly how good the Titans. However, they have shown potential and Head Coach Jeff Fisher typically gets the most out of teams, so this bunch could be a contender.
Recent history: As might be expected for two franchises in the same division since 1995, there is some intense history here. The Titans were the major spoilers in the most successful season in Jaguars history, beating them three times in 1999, a season in which those were the only three losses for Jacksonville. The final victory came in the AFC Championship Game in Jacksonville. More recently, the teams split last season, with the Jaguars winning in Jacksonville during Tennessee's six-game, season-opening losing streak and the Titans ending that streak a month later with a 30-13 victory over Jacksonville in Nashville.
Key question: Is Vince Young maturing as a passer? That may be too early to judge, but as Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean wrote this week, the Titans are passing more, calling passes on 16 of their first 25 plays against Dallas Sunday. Young threw for two touchdowns, and Wyatt wrote that that helped running back Chris Johnson finish with 131 yards and two touchdowns rushing. "The better we can be both running and passing, and having them both complement each other, it will open things up more for Vince to throw and also for C.J. to run," offensive tackle Michael Roos said. Fisher said the offense Sunday was "a matter of executing the game plan we have in. We had balance. We are going to do what we feel like gives us a chance to win on a weekly basis. We have our shots called and sometimes we get them off and sometimes the defense takes them away."
Pressing issue: The secondary. Although the Titans lead the NFL in sacks with 22, and although they have 12 in their last two games, the pass defense is still struggling at times. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns with an interception two weeks ago and Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo passes for 406 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions Sunday. "I'm disappointed in that," Fisher said. "We're going to have to tighten things up just a little bit and go back to technique. It's all these things that are certainly correctable."