NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Washington Commanders on Sunday at FedExField in Landover, Washington.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
Play a Complete Game
It's time for a 60-minute performance from these Titans, huh? The Titans have outscored their opponents 68-37 in the first half of games this season, and they've been outscored 64-7 in the second half. The Titans haven't scored a single point in the second half in the past three weeks. Last week in Indianapolis, the Titans became just the 8th team since 1970 to win two straight games without scoring in the second half. It's great the Titans have been good early – they've scored touchdowns on their first possession in four straight games, and no other team can say that at this point. But the Titans have scored just five touchdowns on 38 other drives combined, and that's not going to cut it. The Titans need to get a lead, and then play like they want to win it instead of trying to hold on for dear life. Just sayin'.
Titans running back Derrick Henry is a key each and every week, so why should this one be any different? Heck, his performance this season has mirrored the rest of the offense – good early, not so successful late. In the first half of games this season, Henry has 231 rushing yards with a 5.1-yard average and three touchdowns. In the second half of games, Henry has 75 rushing yards with a 2.4-yard average and zero touchdowns. Henry, coming off his first 100-yard performance of the season, should have a chance to have success against a Washington defense that's ranked 16th overall in run defense, allowing 112 yards a game, along with a 4.4-yard average. But the Commanders are stout on the defensive line, so it's going to take some work up front. It's time to see Henry do what he's done throughout his career – pick up steam down the stretch.
The Titans have had some recent success against Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz, previously with the Colts. This season, other teams have had plenty of success getting to Wentz, and the Titans need to do the same on Sunday. Through four games, Wentz has already been sacked 17 times, and he's thrown five interceptions. The Titans have played without edge rusher Bud Dupree plenty this season, and guys have stepped up in his absence. They'll need to do it again this week, and that means rushers like outside linebacker Rashad Weaver will need to keep producing along with Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons. Pressuring Wentz will be key.
Receiver Robert Woods has emerged in recent weeks to be even more of a factor, and rookie tight end Chig Okonkwo was a bigger playmaker a week ago. So, who's going to step this Sunday, when the Titans are expected to be without receiver Treylon Burks? Kyle Philips is off the Injury Report this week, and he could make more of an impact. Receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and tight end Austin Hooper have been relatively quiet so far and are due to emerge as well. The Titans are going to need a balanced attack in this one. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will lead the charge, and so far this season he's been especially good in play action, completing 72.5 percent of his passes with a 10.4 yards per catch and a 111.9 rating.
Watch the Deep Balls
The Titans secondary has had its moments, good and bad this season. One thing the team needs to improve on is giving up deep passes. The Commanders know the feeling. Through four weeks, the Titans and Commanders have allowed the 2nd and 3rd-most deep balls this season, according to Next Gen Stats. Tennessee's defense has allowed 355 deep pass yards, the 2nd most in the league. The Commanders, meanwhile, have allowed 264 deep pass yards, third most in the NFL. Both teams will look to tighten things up on Sunday. While it doesn't look like Jahan Dotson is going to play for the Commanders, the Titans need to keep Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel et al in check.
The Titans flexed their muscles on run defense against the Colts, and it's important to do the same against a Commanders team that uses a bunch of running backs. If the Titans are able to stuff the run, which they've been able to do with more success of late, they'd force the Commanders into longer down-and-distance situations, and force them to throw it. The Titans were disruptive up front in Indy, and they'll need to do the same Sunday to free the inside linebackers up to make stops. Tackling well is a big key, just as it was the last time they faced an NFC East opponent.