LONDON -- The Titans face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Protect the QB!
The Titans need Marcus Mariota to return to form, and play like the quarterback who lit it up against the Eagles. But he's going to need time to operate to have a chance. Sure, Mariota held the ball too long at times when being sacked 11 times by the Ravens. On most of the sacks, however, he was under pressure way too early. There's no doubt the Chargers will come after Mariota on Sunday, at least until the Titans prove them can slow them down. The Chargers have 16 sacks on the season, led by safety Derwin James.
Run the ball
The Derrick Henry-Dion Lewis tandem hasn't produced the big results yet, as the Titans are ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards, and 28th in average per carry. But this can't be ignore either – the Titans have faced four top 10 run defenses in the first six games, including the Eagles (2nd), Ravens (3rd), Bills (8th) and Texans (10th). Things won't be easy against the Chargers, ranked 11th vs the run. But the Titans are going to need to run the ball to help with time of possession, since it would keep the football out of the hands of a good Chargers offense.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level. He's No.1 in the AFC with a 115.1 passer rating, and No.2 in the entire NFL. He's thrown 15 touchdowns this season vs. only three interception. In seven career games vs. the Titans, Rivers has 13 TD passes and 4 INTs with a 105.9 rating. The Titans need to get in his face, and get their hands up at the line of scrimmage. If Rivers has as much time to operate as Joe Flacco did last week, it could be a long day in London.
Stop the Run
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is one of the league's most dynamic, and all-around players. He's No.1 in the AFC with 466 yards rushing, and he's averaging a whopping 5.1 yards per carry. What makes Gordon so dangerous is he's also great catching passes out of the backfield – he has 30 catches for 279 yards and three scores. Slowing Gordon down is one of the biggest keys for the Titans on Sunday, and defenders stressed during the week stopping the run is tops in their list of priorities. The Titans enter the contest ranked 26th in rush yards per game, and it's an area the team must improve.
This is the most simplistic key of all, but things have hardly been simple doing it this season. The Titans haven't scored a touchdown since the overtime catch by Corey Davis to beat the Eagles, and the team has been held without a TD in three of six games. The Titans are ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring. Against a Chargers team ranked fifth in points per game, the Titans will need to score touchdowns rather than kick field goals.
Sunday's game qualifies as a home game for the Chargers, but London games provide a unique atmosphere. The game is sold out, but fans from all over the NFL will pack Wembley Stadium, including a pretty large group from Tennessee. I'm looking forward to seeing it all unfold myself. I'm also curious to see which team handles the travel, and performs better. More times than not, the international games have been one-sided. The Titans, of course, hope they'll be on the winning side of this one, no matter the score. Folks in Nashville will have to get up early for this one – it's an 8:30 CDT start.
The Tennessee Titans practice at the Syon House, in Syon Park, south west London, on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
Titans players take part in an NFL Play 60 event with local school children after Friday's practice in London. (Photos: Donn Jones)
Titans players received a lesson in Cricket 101 with @CricketScotland Bowler @AliEvans647 following Friday's practice in London. (Photos: Donn Jones)
Follow the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders throughout their London adventure! (Photos: Donn Jones, Staff)