NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The long awaited return of Chris Johnson is finally upon here with the Titans (2-11) set to host the New York Jets (2-11) in Week 15 at LP Field.
CJ2K posted six consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a Titan from 2008-13 and has 558 yards on 125 carries (4.5 yard avg.) in 2014 with the Jets. He is in a near 50/50 timeshare split of the workload with Chris Ivory, who has 714 yards on 162 carries.
The Jets will start Geno Smith at quarterback. Smith has been better of late but still turns the ball over more often than head coach Rex Ryan would hope for. In Week 8 against the Bills, Smith threw three interceptions in eight pass attempts, leading to him being benched for the game and losing his job to Michael Vick for a few weeks.
Back under center since Week 13, Smith has just one interception in each of his last two games, showing he is moving in the right direction. The second-year QB out of West Virginia has eight touchdown passes to 12 interceptions in 2014.
The Titans have won their last two games against the Jets and own a 24-17-1 record in the all-time series between the two teams. Most recently, the Titans cruised to an easy 38-13 win at LP Field in October of 2013.
In that game, Jake Locker completed 18-of-24 passes for 149 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He'll be in control of Tennessee's offense on Sunday with Zach Mettenberger out due to a shoulder injury.
Milestones on the Horizon Delanie Walker (700 receiving yards in 2014) needs 69 receiving yards to set a single-season franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end (Frank Wycheck had 768 in 1998).
Five Things to Watch
1. Stop the Run
The Titans have allowed a 100-yard rusher in five of their last six contests (Arian Foster, Justin Forsett, Le'Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, and Andre Williams). Containing Johnson, Ivory and the league's second-ranked rushing attack is crucial for the Titans. Ray Horton and his defense made it clear they want Geno Smith to have to beat them on Sunday.
2. Start Fast
10-0, 17-0, 17-0, 30-0. Those are the deficits the Titans have faced the last four weeks. That has made the Titans a predictable drop-back passing team, which has allowed opposing defenses to tee off on Titans QBs. An early lead will help keep the Titans more balanced offensively throughout the game.
- Protect Jake Locker**
Titans quarterbacks have taken a beating the last three weeks. Zach Mettenberger is already out with a shoulder injury and the Titans can't afford to lose Locker. The Titans allowed eight sacks against the Giants last week and 16 in the last three games combined. Starting fast and running the football contribute to this, but tackles Will Svitek and Byron Stingily need to be big contributors against the Jets.
4. Establish and Maintain a Running Game
The broken record keeps playing. It's on this list every week because it's crucial for the Titans to find some consistency in the ground game if they hope to beat the Jets. The streak is at eight consecutive games in which Tennessee has totaled less than 100 yards rushing.
5. Inactive List
Kendall Wright and Taylor Lewan are two names the Titans desperately need back in the lineup, but Lewan's ankle has him doubtful going into Sunday afternoon. Wright is listed as questionable along with Kamerion Wimbley, Michael Griffin, Daimion Stafford and Byron Stingily. Michael Oher was placed on injured reserve Saturday, ending his 2014 season. That means both opening day tackles (Michael Roos being the other) have made their way to IR.