The Tennessee Titans have decided to make a week of it in Arizona, staying there after Sunday’s game against the Cardinals to prepare for a road game the following week in San Francisco.
The Titans (8-4) would appear to have a golden opportunity to zero in on a playoff berth if they can pick up wins over a pair of sub-.500 NFC West teams. First things first, they have to take care of business against the Cardinals. Here are the Titans’ keys to victory.
1. Pass to run. The Cardinals run defense is one of their strengths, and when the Titans are clicking, their run game is what keys the offense. However, given Arizona’s strengths – and the fact that the Titans have Rishard Matthews back – Tennessee might have to pass first to set up the running game for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. That means Marcus Mariota being sharp and finding Delanie Walker and Matthews, his two favorite targets to loosen up the Cardinals defense.
2. Neutralize Chandler Jones. Jones has 13 sacks for the Cardinals and is a big factor on defense. The Titans have Taylor Lewan, who will surely want to do well in his homecoming to the area where he grew up. Lewan is the Titans best and most athletic lineman, but he will have a tall order against Jones.
3. Get after Gabbert. The Titans are facing a backup quarterback for the third straight game. This time, it is Blaine Gabbert, who is actually Arizona’s third-stringer, but starting now after injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton (who is now back). The last few games of the are apparently an audition for Gabbert to see if he is somehow in the team’s future plans. In his career, he has been prone to bad decisions with his passes at times and the Titans need to take advantage of that and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Titans will have to get their pass rush going without their leading sacker, as Derrick Morgan is out with a knee injury.
4. Slow down Larry Fitzgerald. The future Hall of Fame receiver isn’t as fast as he once was, but he still finds ways to get open and be productive. The good news for the Titans is that Logan Ryan is out of the concussion protocol, and will be available for Sunday’s game.
5. Remember, it’s a business trip. The Titans, as mentioned above, are staying in Arizona with a West Coast game to follow against the 49ers. The last thing Tennessee wants to do is get the trip off to a rough start with a loss in Arizona that would be hanging over them the following week.