After back to back victories, the Tennessee Titans playoff hopes are still alive but they face another must-win Sunday in New York against the Giants.
The 7-6 Titans are coming off of a 30-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but face a Giants team that has won 4 of its last 5 games after opening the season just 1-7.
Rest could be a factor for the Titans who have not played in 10 days after being forced to play 3 games in just 11 days.
The biggest threat to Tennessee has to be Giants running back Saquon Barkley. The rookie out of Penn State has been sensational this season with 1,124 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns.
Barkley is also heavily involved in the Giants passing game, leading the team with 78 receptions for 629 more yards and 4 more touchdowns.
Titan linebackers Jayonn Brown and Wesley Woodyard will be tasked with keeping him under wraps in both areas.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has stressed the need to gang tackle Sunday – if the Titans rely on one man to bring Barkley down the results could be disastrous.
The good news for Tennessee is New York’s star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was declared “out” for the game because of a quad injury. Beckham is an explosive player with 77 receptions for 1,052 yards.
Without Beckham on the field, the Titans can stack their defense more heavily against Barkley and take their chances with Sterling Shepard, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard and Corey Coleman. The Titans currently rank 6th in the NFL in passing defense giving up 219 yards per game.
This game could be decided defensively for the Titans in the Red Zone. The Titans are still the number one ranked Red Zone Defense in the league, while the Giants offense ranks 27th. If the Titans can make the Giants kick field goals all day it should keep them within range for the Titans offense against a Giants defense that has given up a ton of points.
NFL Red Zone Rankings (Defense)
Minnesota Vikings 43.1%
Tennessee Titans. 44.4%
Philadelphia Eagles 44.6%
New York Jets. 46.9%
New York Giants. 51.0%
NFL Red Zone Rankings (Offense)
Pittsburgh Steelers 77.5%
Cincinnati Bengals 75.0%
Kansas City Chiefs 73.4%.
Tennessee Titans 52.5%
New York Giants. 48.8%
Offensively for the Titans, the big question is can Derrick Henry do anything close to the 17 carry, 238 yard breakout he had against the Jaguars Thursday night? Henry has struggled much of the season in the Titans first year under offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur but has shown signs of improvement in the second half of the season. After averaging only 3.2 yards per carry the first 7 games of the season, Henry averaged 4.5 the next 5 before busting loose for this team record performance.
He could be in line for a good day against a Giants defense giving up 121.8 yards per game on the ground and a lofty 4.4 yards per carry.
Henry stands at 712 yards for the season, just 288 yards shy of his first 1000 yard NFL Season. The former Heisman Trophy winner needs to average 96 yards per game against the Giants, Redskins and Colts in the last 3 games to hit that number. If he can hit that average the Titans almost certainly will run the table.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has also seen his numbers on the rise completing over 72% of his passes in 5 of his last 7 games. While the Giants have given up 249 yards per game Mariota noted this week the Giants have 15 interceptions and have been dangerous in pass coverage. Linebacker Alec Ogletree leads the way with 5 interceptions, while cornerback Janoris Jenkins has 2 and almost certainly will be locked up with Titans leading receiver Corey Davis all game long.
Injuries hit the Titans offense last week with the team losing tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Jonnu Smith for the season with knee injuries. Dennis Kelly has been a steady backup for the Titans since joining the team and fills in for Conklin the rest of the way.
Tight ends Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt have to fill the void for Smith, who was already starting for Delanie Walker who was lost week 1. Firkser has been a pleasant surprise for the Titans literally catching everything that comes his way. He made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard and has 16 receptions on 16 targets. Pruitt is the leading receiver in Southern Illinois University history and also has pass-catching ability.
The game started with the Giants favored by 3 points when the week started, that number fell to 2.5 by Thursday and once Beckham was declared out fell to a pick’em. That means this one is considered a toss up.