NASHVILLE, Tenn. –The Titans transition from a short week to another road game in Week 12, a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles from Lincoln Financial Field.
At 7-3, the Eagles are tied atop the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and have a comfortable lead over the 3-7 Giants and Redskins.
Both teams are coming off losses in week 11. The Titans fell on Monday Night Football 27-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Eagles were on the wrong end of a 53-20 blowout at Green Bay.
The Titans (2-8) have won four straight games against Philadelphia with the Eagles leading the all-time series 6-4. Their last meeting came in October of 2010 when the Titans came away with an impressive 37-19 victory at LP Field.
Four years later, these two franchises are in much different places. Gone are Jeff Fisher and Andy Reid. Chip Kelly and Ken Whisenhunt have never coached against each other, and the Titans have yet to see Kelly's fast-paced, college-style offense.
Mark Sanchez has been given another shot as an NFL starting QB in Philadelphia after he and the Jets parted ways at the end of last season. Now with Eagles starter Nick Foles expected to miss another month with a broken collarbone, Sanchez is looking to build on his 1-1 record in two starts. Since replacing Foles against Houston, he has thrown for 880 yards with six touchdowns and four picks.
With the departure of Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin has stepped up as the Eagles' top receiver. Maclin has 921 yards and nine touchdowns on 57 receptions. His soon-to-be 1,000- yard season will be the first of his career. Rookie and Vanderbilt alum Jordan Matthews has also come on of late with four touchdowns in his last three games. Matthews has 558 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
LeSean McCoy leads the Eagles in rushing with 729 yards, but owns just a 3.7 yards per carry average. Darren Sproles has added in 257 rushing yards, four touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns in his first season in Philadelphia.
Milestones on the Horizon
- Kendall Wright needs one touchdown to set a new single-season career high (has four touchdowns in 2014).
- Nate Washington needs four receiving yards to reach 6,000 for his career (5,996).
Five Things to Watch
- Protect Mettenberger**
Two starts ago, the Ravens sacked Mettenberger five times and the rookie threw for just 179 yards (just 91 yards in the second half). On Monday night against Pittsburgh, Mettenberger wasn't sacked once and set a Monday Night Football rookie record with 263 passing yards.
The Titans will be going against an Eagles defense that ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 33. Linebacker Connor Barwin currently leads the NFC in sacks with 10.5.
2. Establish/Maintain a Ground Game
Tennessee's running game ranks 26th in the NFL at 92.5 yards per game. The Titans haven't run for more than 100 yards as a team in five consecutive contests (Week 5 vs. Cle.). Against a high-scoring Eagles offense, a successful running game will help keep Mark Sanchez and company on the sideline.
3. Bring the Heat
The Titans sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times Monday night and have 29 sacks on the season (sixth in the NFL). Ray Horton says his defense blitzed around 50 percent of the snaps against the Steelers and plans on continuing to bring heavy pressure every game.
Green Bay got to Mark Sanchez early, often forcing the Eagles QB to make poor decisions. Sanchez threw two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and lost two fumbles (one returned for a touchdown). Breaking up the rhythm of Philadelphia's offense is the best way to beat the Eagles.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
For as many points as the Eagles score, they've struggled with turnovers. Philadelphia has 25 giveaways this season (most in the NFL) and sports a -9 turnover differential. Tennessee's defense ranks 24th with 12 takeaways this season. Sounds like a tasty matchup to grab a few more this weekend.
On the other side of the football, the Titans have done a good job of not turning the ball over. Tennessee's 14 giveaways are tied for 12th fewest in the NFL.
- Control Time of Possession**
The Titans rank 30th in time of possession at 27:00 per game and the Eagles rank 31st with 26:57. Both teams have achieved their respective rankings through different means.
Tennessee has struggled to string drives together, with the team's league-worst 30 percent conversion rate on third down playing the primary part in those struggles.
Philadelphia's fast-paced offense will always lead to a low time of possession. There are many positives about Chip Kelly's style of play, but there's also no questioning that it puts a huge strain on the Eagles defense, which ranks 26th overall and is allowing 25.1 points per game.
The Eagles might be able to score with the best of them, but they're far from stellar defensively. Three-and-outs for the Titans defense, while easier said than done, will be a kryptonite to Philadelphia's game plan.
Combine that with a successful ground attack discussed in no. two and the Titans have their formula for a win on Sunday.