After four weeks of football, the Tennessee Titans are 2-2. The four games could project them into a division lead. Can they do it without Marcus Mariota at the helm?
The Titans travel to Miami with uncertainty at the quarterback position. Mariota himself stated he’s going to do everything in his power to play on Sunday, but it may not be up to him.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey will gauge how Mariota performs throughout the week dealing with a mild hamstring strain. If a 70% Mariota gives Tennessee the best chance to win, he’ll start.
With QB Marcus Mariota banged up, Titans planning to sign free agent QB Brandon Weeden, per @FieldYates.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 3, 2017
If there are any concerns or risk of jeopardizing Mariota causing further damage/injury, veteran Matt Cassel will get the nod with newly acquired backup Brandon Weeden cast as clipboard holder.
Months ago, there was a chance that Jay Cutler could have been in the booth broadcasting this game. Instead, Cutler is one month into the regular season and is the leader of a 1-2 Dolphins team.
— Austin (@AustinCTweets) October 1, 2017
Cutler didn’t look good last week, and has been up and down thus far. His lack of interest in the Wildcat play above was apparently on purpose. Hard to buy that one.
Cutler does have a nice group of pass catchers to throw to. Historically, Cutler has performed well against Titans defenses. In two meetings against Tennessee, Cutler has completed 74.5% of his passes and yields 5-0 touchdown to interception ratio.
The Vanderbilt alum aims to give Head Coach Adam Gase his first career win over the Titans. The Dolphins are one week removed from a 20-0 shutout loss against the New Orleans Saints. The return home from London for their first home game of the season. Last year, the Titans defeated Miami 30-17.
Reliance on the Run
The Titans don’t know who they’ll start at quarterback on Sunday. What they do know is Tennessee’s offensive line must help establish the run. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should be leaned on heavily this week whether Mariota plays or not.
Murray averages 128 yards per game against Miami and has 384 yards in his past three meetings. Henry had seven carries for 54 yards, with his longest being a 22 yard scamper.
Last week against the Texans, Murray and Henry combined for 38 yards on 13 carries. The running game was abandoned as Houston ran away with the game early, forcing the Titans to lean on a one-dimensional passing attack.
Miami’s Jay Ajayi rumbled for 122 yards in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Since then, he’s been contained. The Titans defense did a good job against Ajayi last season. One week after playing Tennessee in 2016, Ajayi blew up and ran for over 200 yards in back to back games.
The Titans cannot forget how deadly Ajayi can be if he gets going.
For the Dolphins, receivers Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills are a formidable group. Parker has emerged as Cutler’s favorite target. Parker led Dolphins receivers last year against Tennessee with 70 yards. Tight end Julius Thomas has recorded a touchdown pass in all four meeting against the Titans. He’ll be a factor.
The Titans rearranged secondary was scorched last week and could not slow down the onslaught led by Houston’s Deshaun Watson. Receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller brutalized the secondary and were uncoverable no matter what adjustments the Titans made.
Eric Decker is no stranger to the Dolphins. In his past four meetings, he’s recorded a touchdown. His career-high 221 yards on 10 receptions was against Miami back in 2014. Titans leading receiver Rishard Matthews is a former ‘Phin. He had a touchdown last year in his first meeting of his former team.
Rookie Corey Davis remains out with a hamstring injury, but Delanie Walker will be active and performs well against Miami historically.
The Titans defense looked horrible last week. For most of the game, the secondary looked confused and the Texans bullied the corners without any discipline from the officials. Tennessee must use this week as an opportunity to bounce back.
Last season, the Titans had a sack parade against Ryan Tannehill. Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo and Jurrell Casey each recorded a pair of sacks. The interior pressure helped mask some of the deficiency in the secondary. The Titans will have to follow the same blueprint that worked last year for this week.
Interior pressure was non-existent throughout the Texans game. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau habitually rushed three, and despite having everyone else in coverage still could not stop Houston’s passing game. The Titans secondary cannot avoid another week with a similar performance.
— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) October 1, 2017
Safety Kevin Byard recorded his first career interception last week, and will look to build on that. Logan Ryan has yet to stand out in the way many anticipated he would, but he could show up in Miami. In the past four meetings, Ryan has two interceptions.
Why even pay Logan Ryan $10M a year if he's not going to cover DeAndre Hopkins? LeShaun Sims, Brice McCain, Adoree' Jackson getting beat.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) October 1, 2017
Adoree’ Jackson will not let last weeks play affect him mentally. He’ll be prepared to go toe-to-toe with Miami receivers and hopefully can find a way to make a play on the ball. In special teams, Jackson has a really good chance of taking a return to the house. He just has to hope his teammates will not commit a penalty that negates the score.
Next Four Games
The Titans have a chance to gain an edge over the division over the next four weeks of the season. Tennessee faces Miami this week, host Indianapolis on Monday Night Football, follow-up against what could still be a winless Browns team and finish the quarter against the Ravens, who’ve struggled week to week.
It will be hard to gauge how Tennessee will fare without Mariota, but the Titans could very well win three or four of the next four.
Houston host the undefeated Chiefs this week, travel to Cleveland next week, return home to host Seattle and finish their quarter at Indy. The Texans looked unstoppable against Tennessee, but it could have been more bad Titans than good Texans. During the next four weeks, the Texans could easily go 2-2.
The Jaguars travel to the Steel City to play Pittsburgh. The Steelers are contenders, but haven’t looked consistent on a weekly basis, so this game could go either way. Jacksonville host the red-hot Los Angeles Rams in their only home game of the quarter. The last two games of the quarter for the Jags are away at Colts and Bengals. Depending on which Jags show up, Jacksonville can go either 1-3 or 3-1.
Lastly, the Colts are in the process of getting Andrew Luck back into the lineup. With Luck behind center, the Colts have a chance to beat anybody. Over the next four weeks, Indy host the 49ers Sunday, then travel to Nashville in hopes of keeping their winning streak alive over the Titans, host the division rival Jaguars the following week and finish their quarter against Cincinnati. Depending on who is quarterback, the Colts could still be alive in the AFC South. There is a chance they could win all four, or lose all four.
The next quarter of the season will be very interesting in the AFC South and the outcome for all teams will likely influence who comes out on top at the end of the season.
Stats referenced at NFL.com
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