NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Titans (10-5) can make it back to back AFC South titles Sunday with a win over the red hot Miami Dolphins. (8-7).
The Dolphins ripped off seven straight victories since starting the season 1-7.
Meanwhile, the Titans are coming off of their mini-bye after a Thursday night win over San Francisco.
Tennessee has also been dealing with the recent COVID-19 surge like much of the NFL. Saturday, the Titans got some big names off of the Reserve Covid List activating linebacker Bud Dupree, defensive lineman Denico Autry, defensive back Buster Skrine, and practice squad receiver Cody Hollister.
Titans on Reserve Covid List:
- WR Julio Jones
- LB Jayon Brown
- OL Kendall Lamm
The big challenge for the Titans will be basking the Dolphins’ aggressive blitzing defense. Miami has 45 sacks this season while Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 45 times.
“There is a lot of pressure,” said head coach Mike Vrabel, “There is pressure. They do a really good job of games. I think they have good players. I think [Jaelan] Phillips is a good pass rusher. [Emmanuel] Ogbah is a good pass rusher. [Adam] Butler is a good pass rusher inside and there do a good job of running games with [Christian] Wilkins and the different personnel groups. Then they blitz people. It’s not just all blitz and then when they do kind of rush four, they do a nice job of working their games,” said Vrabel.
The Titans will have all five of their starting linemen on the field for the first time in weeks. Taylor Lewan and Roger Saffold missed the last game with COVID and Nate Davis got through the COVID protocol from start to finish during the mini-bye.
Last week against the 49ners, Tannehill and the Titans converted 8 third and long situations. That could be an even tougher task against Miami, so Tannehill is looking to stay out of obvious passing situations.
“You don’t want to be in third-and-long at all and definitely not as many times as we were. We killed ourselves with penalties and negative plays. Don’t want to put yourself in that position because on average you are not going to convert nearly the number that we did. Definitely want to be more efficient on first and second down,” said Tannehill.
Defensively, the Titans have to deal with quarterback Tua Tagavailoa and a couple of young and talented weapons in receiver Jaylder Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki.
Dolphins Receiving Leaders
- Jaylen Waddle- 96 Rec. 941 Yards, 5 TD’s
- Mike Gesicki- 67 Rec. 707 Yards, 2 TD’s
- Devonta Parker- 34 Rec. 457 Yards, 2 TD’s
Waddle has been targeted 126 times, that is almost 10 times a game and the Titans will have to tackle well to stop him from turning short gains into big ones. Waddle has 408 yards after the catch this season.
Gesicki meanwhile has turned into one of the more dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the league. Mike Vrabel was part of the Ohio State staff that recruited him and knows him well. “He has turned into a really nice player. He’s very athletic, very long. These tight ends are all different. He runs the entire route tree. He is a very fluid mover. His catch radius is probably second to none in the NFL. As far as some of these passes that look like they are going to be overthrown, he continues to run or take another step and reach up and make a play,“ said Vrabel.
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The Dolphins have struggled to run the ball all season averaging only 3.4 yards per carry and the Titans have one of the best run defenses in the league giving up just 3.9 yards per carry. Offensively for Miami, the game could very well completely rely on Tagavailoa.
The Titans enter the game with a one-game lead over the 9-6 Indianapolis Colts. They also swept the Colts in the season series and win the division by winning either of their last two games (Dolphins or Texans) or if the Colts lose either of their last two (Raiders or Jaguars).
While the Titans are 2nd in the AFC playoff picture, the Dolphins are currently 7th but have a tough road ahead with games against the Titans and Patriots to finish the season.