This matchup would have been a lot more interesting after Week 8, when both teams were 5-2 and it looked like their games against each other would be the turning point of the AFC South race. Instead, both teams have faltered, with the Titans at 5-7 and the Colts at 6-6. A loss would put the Titans out of playoff contention completely, and would put the Colts' playoff hopes on life support.
The key for the Titans is going to have to be to pressure quarterback Peyton Manning. With today's rules favoring receivers, Manning will find someone open if the defense sits back and hopes that its coverage can force an incompletion. Despite his recent struggles, Manning can still fit the ball into extremely tight windows, so no amount of coverage is enough to keep Manning from getting the ball to a receiver. For this reason, the Titans have to risk short completions by rushing Manning. For years, that's proven to be the best (relatively speaking – there's no way to truly shut Manning down) way to attack Manning.
In order to best attack Manning's offensive line, the Titans should Try This!
Trends and Tidbits
- The Patriots have returned to dominance. Since his return from injury, quarterback Tom Brady has been the subject of speculation that he's lost his swagger. In the days of the New England Patriots' dynasty of the early 2000s, what made Brady great was that he didn't have swagger. He entered the league as a 6th-round draft pick, and quietly worked his way up the depth chart from number 4 quarterback to top backup. In interviews and press conferences, it was clear that Brady was still a humble, hard worker who was aware that he could easily be replaced in coach Bill Belichick's system. That's what made Brady great. Now, Brady has the aura of a superstar. He's unstoppable, and he knows it. It isn't an unhealthy amount of confidence at all. He will attack anywhere on the field, and is unafraid of any defender. In the past seven games, he has thrown 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions, a stark contrast to the way in which rival quarterback Peyton Manning has slid into a funk recently. If Brady keeps this up, the decision between him and Michael Vick for MVP will be a tough one.
- Ben Roethlisberger's suspension is possibly the best thing that could have happened for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the past, Roethlisberger always made big plays, but he would negate them at other points in the game by holding onto the ball for too long and absorbing huge, drive-killing sacks. Now, with his top receiver in New York, his run game nonexistent, and his offensive line falling apart, Roethlisberger is single-handedly propelling the Steelers' offense and turning Mike Wallace into a superstar. If Brady and Vick hadn't been playing absolutely out of their minds all season long, Roethlisberger's name would deserve to be in the MVP conversation.
- I'm not sold on the idea of Urban Meyer as the Denver Broncos' next head coach. While it wouldn't be a bad idea, it's just hard to envision. First of all, the media would absolutely crucify him for such blatant dishonesty. A large part of an NFL head coach's job is media relations (which is why Bill Belichick spends twenty minutes per day literally game-planning for press conference), so getting off to such a bad start in that area would just lead to constant headaches and distractions. Also, it is not likely that owner Pat Bowlen will want to hire him. Schematically, Meyer is the exact same as McDaniels on offense – a guru of the spread. The Broncos went from a zone-blocking schemer who could turn anyone into a 1,000-yard rusher in Shanahan, to a spread guy in McDaniels. It's highly unlikely that Bowlen will hire another spread offense disciple. The person this hurts the most is quarterback Tim Tebow, who is the prototypical quarterback for bringing college-style offense back into the NFL.
- Albert Haynesworth's feud with Mike Shanahan was not resolved, and instead is headed for an ugly end. This comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody. Except for Daniel Snyder. - Hank Koebler, IV
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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