Tennessee Titans: Important Player Matchups to Watch in Week 12

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Robert Golden /

Key matchups vs. the Colts in Week 12 for the Tennessee Titans.

At its core, football is a game of matchups. Whichever team is able to find the most favorable matchups throughout the course of the game, and exploit these matchups, will likely win. However, some matchups are more important than others and some games can hinge on these few matchups.

Heading into Week 12, the Titans will be looking to prove that last week’s embarrassing loss against the Steelers is not indicative of their team as a whole. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered through his worst game as a pro with four interceptions that marked his first ever 3+ interception game in his career. The defense was torched by Ben Roethlisberger after a respectable first half.

However, all is not lost for the Tennessee Titans. They face an extremely favorable four-game slate against the Colts, Texans, Cardinals and 49ers who are a combined 12-28 this season and are all playing their backup quarterbacks. This gives the Titans four games to hit their stride before an important game against the LA Rams before a probable division-deciding game against Jacksonville.

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Meanwhile, Indianapolis is no longer a part of the playoff race, but they still have the opportunity to play spoiler against Tennessee and Jacksonville down the stretch. QB Jacoby Brissett has performed admirably on an otherwise desolate roster with no real playmakers on offense outside of T.Y. Hilton. The Indianapolis defense has played better than anticipated this season, which is to say that they have been somewhat competent and haven’t completely collapsed. Pagano may be on his way out after this season, but he has kept this team from giving up on him. The Titans must start playing better offensively with Marcus Mariota eager to prove that last week was “a fluke“, Corey Davis still looking for his breakout game, and the Titans running backs looking to respond to some criticism over the last few weeks. Defensively, the Titans have been steadily improving, especially in the secondary, but they should be hoping for more from their pass rush against several inexperienced quarterbacks and mediocre offensive lines on the schedule.

Earlier this season, the Titans finally ended their losing streak against the Indianapolis Colts and are now looking to start a streak of their own against the Colts. Let’s examine three matchups that will determine the course of today’s game.

Matchup 1: WR Corey Davis vs. CB Quincy Wilson

Corey Davis, up to this point, has not produced at the level of a No. 5 overall pick. The Titans selected him with hopes that he would provide Marcus Mariota with the prototypical No. 1 receiver that he has not been able to lean on early in his career as other young quarterbacks like Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott. However, due to injury, Davis missed almost the entire offseason and most of the regular season. Since returning to the field, Davis has shown flashes of brilliance along the sideline and almost had a touchdown that he fumbled away against the Bengals.

His relatively large volume of targets has not translated to a large number of receptions. Mariota and Davis clearly still need to make up lost time and develop a rapport after Davis missed a lot of time due to a lagging calf injury. This week, Davis will likely match up against fellow rookie Quincy Wilson, who has also missed a substantial amount of time due to injury and has been relatively unimpressive thus far after being selected 46th overall in the 2017 NFL draft. Though the Titans don’t necessarily need a big game from Davis to win against Indianapolis since they already won without Davis and with a crippled Mariota, but the Titans would love to see a big game from their No. 5 overall pick heading into key games in Weeks 16 and 17.

Matchup 2: OLB John Simon and Jabaal Sheard vs. OT Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan

Prior to their Week 11 bye, the Colts gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a scare by limiting their offense for much of the game before losing in the fourth quarter, which has become somewhat of a trend for Indianapolis. The main reason that the Indianapolis defense played so well against an explosive Steelers offense was the outstanding play of John Simon and Jabaal Sheard in collapsing the pocket around Big Ben and setting the edge on Le’Veon Bell’s runs.

Credit to the new GM Chris Ballard on bringing these two veterans to Indianapolis during the offseason to start a defensive overhaul because these two players seem like solid building blocks for the defense based on their performances this season.

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The Titans can not allow the edge rush of Indianapolis to affect their game plan and the running game must get back on track over the next four game, so offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin must maintain their blocks on the outside and open up holes for DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota, and Adoree’ Jackson to wear the Colts defense down. Their success against the Colts outside linebackers will likely determine the effectiveness of the Titans offense since the rest of the Colts defense will not hold up if the running game and Marcus Mariota have the benefit of high level offensive line play.

Matchup 3: CB Adoree’ Jackson vs. WR T.Y. Hilton

I wrote about this matchup’s importance in detail back before the Titan’s first game against Indianapolis, but much has changed since that point in time. At that point, Adoree’ Jackson was nowhere near as consistent in his play as he is now. Prior to his first matchup against Hilton, Jackson was as likely to produce a big play as give one up and opposing quarterbacks were keying in on him each and every game.

Now, Jackson has steadily improved to the point where he is capable of matching up against the league’s best in Antonio Brown and has provided some of the best coverage of any rookie defensive back as he consistently breaks up passes and sticks to his man. Last game against Indianapolis, Jackson did a great job limiting Hilton’s impact since the Colts offense essentially lives and dies by Hilton’s output. Jackson’s athleticism makes him the ideal player to cover Hilton, and it will be interesting to use his performance against Hilton tomorrow as a measuring stick for how much he has improved this season.

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