Whether you think the Tennessee Titans will run over the New York Jets, or whether you think this is a trap game for Mike Vrabel’s squad ultimately comes down to what you think about the Jets’ defense.
The fact is, opposing offenses have gotten plenty of chances to score on the New York Jets thanks to Zach Wilson. BYU’s standout quarterback hasn’t had a smooth transition to the NFL and is tied for the league lead in interceptions with Trevor Lawrence (both have 7).
Rookie quarterbacks inevitably struggle, but Lawrence and Wilson have combined for 14 interceptions this season and most defenses would collapse under that sort of pressure.
Despite that, the New York Jets are only allowing 2.12 points per drive and they are top-5 in the NFL in 3rd down defense.
So if the defense is so good, what is the flaw that the Tennessee Titans can exploit?
Tennessee Titans secret weapon…the tight ends
Tennessee Titans fans generally agreed that the most concerning part of the Tennessee Titans offense was the tight end position. That certainly didn’t get off to a great start with Anthony Firkser missing the last two games and Geoff Swaim struggling.
However, the silver lining is that the Tennessee Titans brought back MyCole Pruitt who has nearly worked his way back into a starting role for the team.
Pruitt has made some tough catches, but more importantly, he has been a big positive in the run game. His effort and physicality as a run-blocker are contagious and it has given the rushing attack more edge than they normally have in September.
It is crucial that Pruitt continues to do that this week and that Anthony Firkser (who practiced on Wednesday) is back to being the receiving threat that he has been for the last few years.
Why is it crucial? Simply put, the New York Jets want to impose their will on defense and they want to dictate what the offense has to do to block them instead of adapting to what the offense is doing.
Specifically, the Jets are fully committed to using a four-man front on defense. Over the last two games, the Jets have used their four-man front regardless of whether offenses are in empty (5 receivers), 12 personnel (two tight ends and a running back), or anything in between.
There are some rare exceptions like goal-line defense, but for the most part, they clearly want Quinnen Williams and Foley Fatukasi in the middle with John Franklin-Meyers and Bryce Huff at EDGE.
Whether or not the Tennessee Titans can use fullbacks and tight ends to create a numbers advantage in the run game will be a big factor in what this team can do on offense.
Running the ball effectively would force the Jets to either use a formation they are uncomfortable with or to run blitz frequently. That adjustment means that there should be great matchups for the Titans wide receivers in the secondary or even for the tight ends in the spots where the linebackers vacate.
On the other hand, if the Jets can win with their front-four then Todd Downing would likely get away from the run game and get away from the marriage of running game and play action that has worked so well for the Titans over the last two years.
This is the game within the game this week and you can tell it is a point of emphasis every time you hear an offensive lineman or a coach step in front of the microphone.