The Tennessee Titans look to get their first win at home in 2017 as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks come to town.
This time last year, the Tennessee Titans were 1-1, fresh off grinding out a penalty-laden win against the Detroit Lions. I was encouraged by the promise of the team, but still had low expectations for a quick turnaround. So, if you were to tell me then that in one year the Titans would be three-point favorites against the Seattle Seahawks, I wouldn’t have believed you.
The small amount of time it took to become a competitive team is quite a feat. But the Titans can’t waste time patting themselves on the back; they are still just 1-1 and are facing a Seahawks team that has made the playoffs for four straight postseasons. The Seahawks themselves have a 1-1 record and some serious question marks, but they will not be pushovers this Sunday.
The Seattle Seahawks have only scored 21 points this season, which is less than offensive invertebrates like the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, and Cleveland Browns have mustered thus far. Most of the blame for this lack of output centers around one aspect: the offensive line. Their passing game has really suffered due to poor offensive line play, averaging a measly rate of 158 yards per game, at just 4.0 yards per attempt. The Titans should look to attack Rees Odhiambo, who was the next man up after starter George Fant was lost to a torn ACL in the preseason. Odhiambo has struggled mightily thus far, with Pro Football Focus rating him as the worst tackle in the league through two games (25.9).
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Even though the OL has been atrocious, Russell Wilson is not blameless. The poor OL play has him imagining pressure, and he sometimes leaves the pocket when he doesn’t need to. He has just a 56% completion rate, which is eight points off his career average. Despite his poor play of late, the Titans can’t sleep on the Super Bowl-winning QB. He and Doug Baldwin are both streaky players, and each of them are due for a breakout game. The Seahawks have always rotated their stable of backs, and their latest flavor of the week is rookie Chris Carson. He had a solid showing against the 49ers for 100 total yards. The Titans should try their best to shut him down and force the OL to have to block on 3rd-and-longs. Another big storyline is that Jimmy Graham, one of Wilson’s few weapons, looks to be a game time decision.
Here is an easy way to summarize this Seahawks defense:
This defense has been one of the best in the league for a long time now, and has only allowed 13 points per game this season. Their front seven is ridiculous, with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and Jarran Reed aiming to give the Titans’ offensive line a struggle. Oh, and I almost forgot they casually added stud DL Sheldon Richardson in a trade late this offseason (one I wish the Titans would have attempted). And of course everyone is familiar with their star-studded secondary, which is back to normal with Earl Thomas healthy again.
Despite their accolades, this defense is not perfect. They currently are 29th in the league in rushing yards per attempt against, with 5.9. Carlos Hyde tore them up for 124 yards at a 8.3 YPC clip last week. This looks promising for the Titans, whose preferred offensive game plan is to let their rushing attack dictate the game. If the Titans can replicate the 49ers’ rushing performance, they should be in a good position to win, as they have Marcus Mariota instead of Brian Hoyer to capitalize on scoring opportunities and third downs.
As Will pointed out earlier this week, the Titans should also look to exploit the slot. The Titans most likely will want to take Thomas out of the picture by running a receiver deep to move him out of position. That will allow slot receivers Eric Decker and Taywan Taylor to work underneath.
The Respective Run Games
If the Titans can keep Carson and the run game in check, the defense should have pretty easy assignments. With a weak offensive line, keeping them in 3rd-and-long situations will make it difficult for the Seahawks to move the ball. And, as always, if the Titans can effectively run the ball, then they are in their comfort zone and can control the flow of the game.
Containing Russell Wilson
This goes hand in hand with stopping the run. If you force the Seahawks into 3rd-and-long situations, you need to capitalize. The Titans themselves said they are focusing on keeping Wilson inside of the pocket and not letting him run free. He is at his most dangerous when he is on the run, and basically won the Seahawks the game last week by extending a play and throwing a TD. The Titans should get pressure easily, but they need to make sure their pressure is effective and not just driving Wilson into open space.