The Tennessee Titans are an enigma. Entering the tenth season of the AFC South, I think that the Titans have established themselves as the true wildcard of the division. Some years they compete with the Colts for the top spot (they were the only team not called the Colts to win the division until Houston did in 2011), and other years they are about as terrible as the Houston Texans (until recent years). One year they make the playoffs, the next year they go 5-11. Despite all of this, Fisher remained the constant. Now, with Mike Munchak at the helm and the Titans coming off a sluggish 9-7 campaign they continue to be a wildcard for the AFC South.
Mike Munchak and the Titans have made it clear they want to win in their new era of post Vince Young. They brought in Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker to bolster the quarterback position with legitimate passers, and the defense has continued to grow into a formidable component of their team.
Can they beaten? Or will they continue to be an enigma and suddenly fizzle, spurt back into flames, then fall out of glory again?
There are two major components for how the Jaguars will be able to beat the Titans in 2012.
- Failure to Stop the Run – The Jags ran for 163 yards against the Titans in week one of 2011. This was one week after the Jags cut their starting quarterback and were playing a mediocre Luke McCown at quarterback. Essentially there was no balance (47 rushing attempts to 24 passing attempts), and the Jags were still able to put up big yardage on the ground. Similarly, in week 16 the Jags put up 113 yards in the ground in their loss to the Titans. Unfortunately, six penalties (Tennessee had none) hurt the Jaguars and limited the effectiveness of the run game, forcing longer downs. The Titans were forced to rely on Matt Hasselbeck to put up 350 yards in order to win by a meager six points. If the Titans’ failure to stop the run continues into 2012, look for the Jags to run over them with a much more developed quarterback to complement the run game.
- Sack the Quarterback – Matt Hasselbeck was sacked 19 times in 2011. 19 times…let’s just let that sink in for a little bit. In contrast, Blaine Gabbert was greeted in the NFL 40 times by opponents’ players. Every player sacked less than Matt Hasselbeck didn’t play the entire season. When your quarterback is given time like the Titans could afford to give Hasselbeck, it is very difficult to stop the team from moving the chains. As mentioned in the first part of how to beat the Titans, Matt Hasselbeck and Co. won the second meeting of the teams largely because of his 350 passing yards. Hasselbeck is an ex-Superbowl quarterback with plenty left in the tank. But it doesn’t really matter who is starting for the Titans if you can’t reach them. The Jags need to make sure that when they are going into games against the Titans, they are focused and ready to pound the quarterback into the ground (after all, they won’t be hitting the ground the rest of the season apparently). Disrupting the passing game will stop Tennessee from becoming a real threat in the game, especially with Chris Johnson failing to become CJ2K again.
Two very simple ways to stop the Titans. While a lot of it relies on the Titans and how their offensive line will play or how their defense can do against our offensive line, there is really no reason for the Jags to not play to their strengths and run the ball and pound the quarterback.
If the Jags can stay focused on their game plan (which may inclue elements laid out here) they should be able to get two victories next year and sweep the enigmatic Titans.
- Luke N. Sims