NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Chargers on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Can Mariota stay hot?**
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been on a roll. In the second quarter of the season, Mariota's 120.7 passer rating ranked 2nd in the NFL, behind only Tom Brady's 133.9 passer rating. He threw 10 touchdown passes, and only one interception in games 5-8. The Chargers are ranked 24th in the NFL in pass defense, and they've allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.8 percent of their passes. The Titans need Mariota to keep it going.
Running back DeMarco Murray has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of the team's last six games, and he's second in the NFL in rushing at the season's halfway mark. Murray was limited earlier in the week with a toe injury, although he finished the week well. Still, his condition will need to be monitored even into the contest. Rookie Derrick Henry proved last week he's capable of stepping in and helping in a big way if Murray has a setback.
San Diego's Philip Rivers has been one of the league's most consistent quarterbacks over the years, and he's put up some good numbers this season. He's thrown 15 touchdowns vs only seven interceptions, with a 93.8 rating. The Broncos flustered Rivers last Sunday, however. Rivers threw three INTs and completed just 20-of-47 passes against Denver. Cranking up the pass rush will be key for the Titans. Linebackers Brian Orakpo (7 sacks) and Derrick Morgan (5.5) would like to meet in the San Diego backfield.
Rivers is just a part of San Diego's attack. Running back Melvin Gordon has been a huge part of the offense as well, with 572 rushing yards and 24 catches for 219 yards. He has 10 touchdowns on the season. He's San Diego's version of DeMarco Murray, a do-it-all performer. The Chargers have other weapons to contend with, but keeping Gordon in check is key for the Titans.
OK, keeping Joey Bosa quiet is easier said than done. Since entering the lineup, Bosa has been a disruptive force, racking up four sacks and 11 pressures in four games. The first-round pick from Ohio State has made life miserable for opposing offensive lines, and quarterbacks. The Titans are familiar with him. Not only did right tackle Jack Conklin, who played at Michigan State, face him three times in college, the Titans evaluated Bosa closely leading up to the NFL Draft.
Change of luck?
Titans fans prefer to remember the team's last game against the Chargers – in 2013 at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won that game on a last-second touchdown pass to Justin Hunter. They surely want to forget the previous seven matchups as the "Titans," all won by the Chargers. The Titans have lost five straight in San Diego by an average score of 33-13. Facing former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, now offensive coordinator with the Chargers, can the Titans replace some bad memories with good ones? Titans coach Mike Mularkey perhaps said it best on Friday when asked about the past vs San Diego: "This team has never lost to the Chargers. That's a point-blank fact. This football team in this locker room has never lost to the Chargers, so I'm going to leave it at that."
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photos)