NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Can Tannehill Stay Hot?
The running game hasn't produced explosive plays. The defense was shaky against the Jaguars. The kicking game has lacked consistency. Receiver A.J. Brown remains sidelined. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, has been money. Tannehill has competed 70 percent of his passes so far, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. With at least two touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions vs the Vikings, Tannehill would become just the fourth player in NFL history with at least two touchdowns passes and one or fewer touchdowns in at least 10 consecutive regular season games, which would put him in a group with Aaron Rodgers (13), Tom Brady (11) and Philip Rivers (10). It's a cool stat, but what the Titans want to see most is Tannehill staying hot.
Henry's Next Gear
Titans running back Derrick Henry is second in the NFL with 200 rushing yards, and he leads the league in carries. By no means is Tennessee's running game stuck in the mud. But Henry, the NFL's leading rusher a year ago, is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, and his long run is only 14 yards. Is this the week Henry breaks a long run, and produces more explosive plays? Well, the Vikings have allowed 154.5 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL) over the first two weeks of the season. This could be a breakthrough game.
The Titans have a shiny new toy in Jadeveon Clowney, as well as a talented pass rusher in Harold Landry, who netted 10 sacks in 2019. But so far this season, neither player has a sack, and the Titans have just two as a team – defensive lineman Jack Crawford and safety Kenny Vaccaro got one each this past Sunday against the Jaguars. The Vikings have allowed five sacks on the season. Can the Titans make Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins more uncomfortable than they made Denver's Drew Lock and Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew over the past two weeks? Well, that's the plan.
The Titans played without Brown last week, and he's missed practices again this week. So who will step up in the Titans offense this Sunday? The tight ends have been big-time contributors so far, as Jonnu Smith has three touchdowns in two games and MyCole Pruitt (1 TD) and Anthony Firkser (6 catches) have been big for Tannehill. Receivers Adam Humphries (team-high 11 catches) Corey Davis (10 catches) both have touchdown catches as well. Who will emerge on Sunday in Minnesota?
The Titans gave up way too many yards and points last week against the Jaguars, a week after holding Denver to just 14 points. In addition to the pass rush, the Titans also need to clamp down on run defense against a talented back in Minnesota's Dalvin Cook. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith are dangerous targets as well. The Titans are going to need to clean some things up on defense coming off last week's performance, and this Sunday would be a good time to start.
Seize the Momentum
The Vikings have struggled over the first two weeks of the season, with losses to the Packers (43-34) and Colts (28-11). In those two contests, they've been outgained 876-557 in yardage, and the average time of possession in those games has been 39:51 to 20:10 in favor of the opposition. These aren't the Vikings most expected, and there's no doubt they have talent to turn it around. But in an empty stadium, the Titans have a chance to keep the Vikings down with a strong start and more consistent play. Can the Titans get to 3-0?