It may only be week 2 of the 2008 NFL season, but this match-up could not feature two teams that are going in more opposite directions. The Titans are coming off of an absolute drubbing of the Jaguars, while the Bengals had their butts handed to them by the Ravens last week. Even though we are only a week into the season, the Bengals seem almost desperate for a win, while the Titans need to follow up their impressive performance last week by dominating a lesser team this week. Because after all, that is what good teams are supposed to do right?
Titans rushing offense vs. the Bengals defense
Last week the Titans ran the ball quite effectively against a good Jaguars defense, amassing 137 yards on 32 carries (a respectable 4.3 ypc) and a touchdown. The Bengals, meanwhile, allowed a ragged Ravens team to run all over them. The Ravens finished the day with 229 yards rushing on 46 carries (good for 5.0 ypc) and two touchdowns. And that was without Willis McGahee. This is Cincinnati’s home opener so you can expect PB to be rockin’, but if the Ravens were able to open up holes the way they did last week, I can only imagine what sort of room LenDale White and Chris Johnson will have to run berserk. I expect them to do so all afternoon.
Titans pass offense vs. the Bengals defense
Unless you’ve been asleep or in a cave all week (or asleep in a cave), you’ll know that Vince Young is going to miss the next 2-4 weeks with a sprained MCL. This means Kerry Collins will now serve as the number one quarterback in Tennessee until VY is able to return to the field. Collins’ first test will be Sunday when he leads the Titans against Cincinnati. While this is obviously not the situation that we would have envisioned for this team so early on, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The fact of the matter is that when he has played over the last two seasons, Collins has performed quite well. And while he may not possess the athletic skills and play-making ability that Vince does, he probably is the better passer of the two. And when you’re receivers can’t go out and get a ball for the QB every once in a while, Collins’ accuracy and veteran savvy to recognize defenses should actually help open up the game that the Titans want to exploit on the ground. It also may give Young some time to get his head right and study the game from the sidelines (something he probably didn’t have time to do his rookie year). And even though the Titans receiving corps isn’t much to write home about, neither is the Bengals secondary. Yet as much as they lack in um…skill, they do sometimes make up for in their big play ability. They are sort of a boom or bust defense. It will be the quarterback’s job to manage that. In the end, Collins should have a very serviceable day, and hopefully the running game can help open up the opportunity for some big plays downfield. Also, expect tight end Alge Crumpler to play a much larger role this week. He and Bo Scaife will be counted on to help move the chains yet again. There should be plenty of chances for the Titans to move the ball through the air on Sunday.
Bengals rushing offense vs. the Titans defense
Last week, the Titans were able to hold the outstanding Jacksonville duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a measly 33 yards on 17 carries (a whopping 1.9 ypc), albeit behind a makeshift Jaguars offensive line. This week, they face a less formidable pair in Chris Perry and Kenny Watson. Against good Ravens front, the Bengals managed just 70 yards on 24 carries (2.9 ypc). The Titans are a better defense than the Ravens, and Perry and Watson aren’t even in the same league as Taylor and MJD. I think you get where I’m going with this one.
Bengals passing offense vs. the Titans defense:
Last year, Carson Palmer and the Bengals wide outs torched the Tennessee secondary for 278 yards passing and 3 TD’s (all going Chaz’s way). This time around should be quite different, with a healthy Chris Hope back and a more experienced Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin. It also looks as though Haynesworth will play this time around, as it seems he has almost fully recovered from being mildly concussed last week. I expect Schwartz to send defenders flying at Palmer all day in hopes of forcing him into a bad decision that the this defense has seemed to be taking more advantage of these days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 85 and Housh get theirs, but this Titans team is nothing like the one the Bengals faced last year. With the pressure that the front will create, it should alleviate a lot of stress that would otherwise fall on the secondary. As awful as the Bengals have looked lately, they still have a better than average passing game that you know will turn it on at some point. I’m just betting it won’t happen against the Titans.
Edge: Even (but not really, I just felt like I might jinx them by betting they run the table)
Rob Bironas will be counted on a few times I’d imagine, and should come through like always, but the real pressure should fall on the rest of the Titans special teams. They did an awful job of covering kicks last week, so they should be more prepared for his one. Chris Carr will also be counted on to give the team better field position than he did versus the Jags. The Bengals Shayne Graham is a good kicker in his own right, and he figures to play a significant role in the Bengals scoring when the Titans stop them short of the goal line.
Edge: Bironas and the Titans
As we said earlier, this will be the home opener for the Bengals, and even though their season started off on the wrong foot, you can be sure to expect them to come out and try and give the fans a reason to believe that this one isn’t already lost. Chad Johnson will try and do something to give the home crowd a reason to cheer, especially after a lackluster performance from “Oucho” in week 1 (1 catch for 22 yards). Throw in the fact that newly acquired defensive end Antawn Odom was allowed to walk in free agency from Tennessee this off-season, and there should be some added incentive on both sides of the ball to not get embarrassed.
The Titans, on the other hand, find themselves in the driver seat in the difficult AFC South. Sure, we’re just a week in, but the Titans should be a much more focused bunch this time around, after the drubbing they took in Cincinnati last year (one of the few highlights of an otherwise forgettable season for the Bengals). Albert Haynesworth didn’t play in that game last season, and his availability remains a question mark for this game due to a mild concussion sustained last week, but we’ll bet that Big Al is on the field and angry as ever. That same game last season was also the one in which the Titans lost safety Chris Hope for the remainder of year with a serious neck injury. Hope is now back, healthy and playing as strong as ever. The Titans can ill afford to have a letdown game this early on. They should be ready for the challenge.
On paper, this is one of those games that the Titans have no excuse to lose. They are better on both sides of the ball, and should have a little more wind in their sails after a big week 1 win. The Bengals are a team that is struggling right now in trying to find its identity under what may be an already lame-duck coach in Marvin Lewis. The Titans should win this one, but I believe that the score won’t reflect the how lopsided this contest should be. Let’s just hope we can get out of the Queen City with a win and no significant injuries…
Prediction: Titans 23-13