Tennessee Titans at New York Jets
Giants Stadium, 1:00 PM EDT, CBS
The New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans will hook up Sunday in what has all the makings of a very good game. The Titans (who will be dressed in Houston Oilers uniforms) come in 0-2 and seething. Titans LB Keith Bulluck and FB Ahmard Hall among others have talked up this game’s importance because they know that an 0-3 football team probably is not making the playoffs.
By the same token, this has all the makings of a classic Jets letdown. After defeating the New England Patriots last week, in a game that Kris Jenkins compared to the Super Bowl, it’s natural to let up a little bit the week after. Rex Ryan’s job is to keep up the intensity level against a team not only smarting after two straight close losses but also hoping for revenge for the Jets’ spoiling their undefeated season the year before.
When the Jets have the ball…
As usual, the Jets are going to want to establish the run first. They have run the ball 57% of their plays, tops in the league. Much of that has been a byproduct of leads, but Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both talented backs, and giving them the ball helps keep the pressure off of rookie QB Mark Sanchez.
This game may be different. The Titans have been far more susceptible through the air than on the ground in the early going. As a result, the Jets might let Sanchez throw the ball a little more to try and stop Tennessee from keeping eight in the box.
The secondary has ability, as CB Cortland Finnegan, S Michael Griffin, and S Chris Hope are all physical and talented. Finnegan and Jerricho Cotchery should be an exciting matchup all night long. However, the whole secondary has been prone to overplaying plays and taking too many chances. Against a rookie quarterback with their backs against the wall, it’s entirely possible they try to do too much again, and Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey might break a big play or two because of it. CB Nick Harper is the likeliest target. We may even have a David Clowney sighting.
Still, Washington and Jones should be the focal point of this offense. The order of those names is a major change in offensive philosophy, as Washington is now just as big a part of the offense as Jones, if not more, and he burned Tennessee last season. Shonn Greene might even see his first action. The Titans have been stout against the run, as opponents have managed just 2.9 yards-per-carry against them. Stephen Tullock and Keith Bullock anchor a solid run-stopping linebacking corps, and Jason Jones and Tony Brown have done a good job replacing Albert Haynesworth, at least against the run.
The Jets will try to run the ball first, which is what the Jets want. As great as it sounds to just let Mark Sanchez loose, this Titans defense is still one of the better ones in the NFL. The Jets should be able to move the ball, but touchdowns may be a little hard to come by. The Jets average 20 points a game against defenses with lesser pedigrees than the Titans, so it’s hard to predict many more than that.
When the Titans have the ball…
Like the Jets, the Titans are going to be a run-first offense, and their top tailback is coming off an all-time great game. Chris Johnson scored three times from 50 yards or more last week, tallying 197 yards on the ground and another 87 through the air. Tennessee will no doubt continue to lean on Johnson, who might be the fastest runningback in the NFL. Any defensive miscommunication could mean a touchdown.
Stopping Johnson will be Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s primary task. The Jets contained Johnson last season, but if Johnson gets man-to-man coverage with a linebacker, that could be a problem. Steve Slaton and Kevin Faulk were both runningbacks who were threats in the passing game, but Johnson’s speed makes him a completely different animal.
However, the Jets should be able to contain the Titans run offense. Titans center Kevin Mawae tended to struggle against massive nose tackles like Kris Jenkins, and that should help stop the Titans from running the ball up the middle, LenDale White's forte. The Titans may try to stretch out the defense by running outside, away from Jenkins, Bart Scott, and David Harris.
While the Jets are nurturing a young quarterback and taking him along slowly, the Titans know exactly what they have in Kerry Collins. He’s a game manager who doesn’t make many mistakes. However, Collins is a statue in the pocket, so the Jets are likely to tee off at him like last week. The difference is that the Jets are down Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, the #2 and #3 cornerbacks, so Justin Gage, Kenny Britt and Nate Washington will have physical and athletic advantages on Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman. Darrelle Revis will probably face Gage most of the game, but if Collins throws one ball towards him, it’s probably one ball too many.
Coleman and Lowery haven’t seen a ton of action on defense in the first two games, but now they are thrown straight into the fire. Lowery and Coleman have both been up-and-down during their respective careers, so Britt and Washington might be able to break a big play or two. That, of course, assumes Collins has the time to throw, which is why it will be imperative to get pressure.
The Titans have a strong offensive line that will go toe to toe with the Jets defense. However, the Titans’ passing game has a lot to prove, and Chris Johnson has a tendency to get his yardage in chunks. If the Jets can stop him from breaking open the big play, the Titans could struggle to put up points.
The Titans desperately need this game, while the set-up is prime for a Jet letdown. However, the Jets are aggressive and are still trying to prove that their defense is worth the hype. A raucous crowd will do its part to get behind its defense.
As of now, it looks like it’s going to pour at the Meadowlands tomorrow throughout the game. While common sense dictates that rain would help the defenses, it tends to make the field slippery, which could cause some big plays. Both defenses are very good, but both offenses have guys with speed who can make plays in the open field.
This is going to be a very tough game for the Jets to win. Not only do they need to deal with Chris Johnson in the open field, but can’t you see Drew Coleman falling down and Kenny Britt or Nate Washington racing for a touchdown? However, it’s more likely that Collins uses a lot of checkdowns to Johnson and tight ends Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler.
Of course, the Jets have a few guys who can make plays for them as well. Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, and Chansi Stuckey aren’t easy to bring down when they have the football, and both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington can break a big run.
Both teams might make a few big plays, but the key will be which team makes fewer mistakes and doesn’t turn the ball over. Mark Sanchez’s ability to elude pass rushers could come in handy, as the Jets will move him around to keep the Titans off-balance defensively. Look for Collins to have a fumble or two that give the Jets enough possessions to win the game. Perhaps even a defensive touchdown may be in the cards.
Prediction: Titans of New York 24, Tennessee Titans 17