When and where: October 13, 2019, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO, 4:25 PM ET
An ugly home loss to the Buffalo Bills should have the Jekyll-and-Hyde Tennessee Titans seething for a bounce-back win when heading to Mile High on Sunday to take on the Denver Broncos. The Titans’ 14-7 loss to the Bills came on cue after an impressive road win over the Atlanta Falcons. It’s no surprise considering their lukewarm nature. Winning big games hasn’t been a problem for the Titans as much as winning them consistently.
Meanwhile, the Broncos should come into this game feeling a little surge of momentum after knocking off the Los Angeles Chargers for their first win of the season. They’re a tough team to beat when the defense is playing in unison and coming up with takeaways. The unit forced two interceptions and one fumble for a 20-13 win over the Chargers.
Not so super MariotaQuarterback Marcus Mariota clearly isn’t the long-term franchise answer for the Titans. That’s a statement many Titans fans would vehemently disagree with since Mariota is so beloved throughout the community. But being a great guy doesn’t win football games.
I’m not going to heap all of the recent struggles on his shoulders considering how bad the offensive line has held up in recent weeks. Mariota has hit the dirt for a league-high 22 sacks from opposing defenses. He isn’t getting the adequate protection he needs to drop back and pass, and fans are also getting robbed of the best possible version of running back Derrick Henry with those struggles.
Perhaps an even bigger concern is the absence of defensive end Cameron Wake at practice on Wednesday. The veteran pass rusher is currently tied for second-most sacks on the team (2.5), and he is officially listed as questionable on the injury report. Linebacker Sharif Finch also popped up on the injury report after missing practice as well. He left last Sunday’s game against the Bills early with a shoulder injury.
However, the Titans defense should have an easier time keying in on Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco, who won’t be on the move nearly as much as Josh Allen was for the Bills. The Broncos’ receiving corps is also a bit banged up heading into the game.
If the Titans have an advantage, it's that defensive coordinator Dean Pees' previous stint was in Baltimore, so he has some familiarity of his strengths and weaknesses. Yet, Pees wants his defense to sharpen up some things and well, there is little margin for error.
“Number one, we just can’t give up the one big play a game that we seem to be giving up. We’ll play well… then last week we give up a reverse… it’s not so much the desperation at the end that bothers me sometimes,” Pees said.
“We’re trying to make a play at the end, and sometimes it’s feast or famine when you’re really trying to get somebody stopped at the end. But we gave up a run in the Colts game, we gave up a reverse last week, we gave up a run in the Jacksonville game. We’ve just got to eliminate that big play… and we’ve just got to play better in the red zone.”
Yet, success for the Titans will be dependent on protecting Mariota from former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. If they can keep Mariota upright, he’ll have a shot at putting up points on Denver’s top-10 defense.
Less Joe is good for the BroncosOnce upon a time, Joe Flacco was considering a burgeoning elite quarterback. Sure, there were times when he missed open receivers and made terrible decisions in the pocket, but those moments were cloaked by the many great throws he made in high-pressure situations. Joe Cool might still exist somewhere under the exterior of the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but Joe Elite has sailed off into the sunset.
Heading into Sunday’s game against a tough Titans’ defensive front, the Broncos have to remain committed to running the football with the combination of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. It needs to be a run-first team with Flacco’s arm serving only as a complimentary option. The veteran quarterback has thrown at least one interception in each of his last four games. For a team lacking in offensive explosiveness, they can’t afford to have careless turnovers kill potential scoring drives.
The loss of Bradley Chubb on the defensive side of the ball has been a huge hit to the unit’s effectiveness in getting after the quarterback. They currently rank as the second-worst team in the league in sacks per game, which is a big problem when facing the Mariota-led Titans. Mariota has shown the ability to light up the scoreboard if he’s given time in the pocket. It could be a long night for the Broncos if they aren’t able to at least make him see ghosts.
It will be an even longer night for Flacco if receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton are hampered in any way. Both have been limited at practice this week with injuries.
- Broncos are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
- Broncos are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Broncos are 1-4 ATS against a team with a losing record.
- Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games against a team with a losing road record.
- Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games against teams in the AFC.