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Friday, November 11, 2011

Sportaholic Tennessee Titans vs. Carolina Panthers Preview


The Cam Newton express is up next on the Tennessee Titans docket. After losing to the Bengals and rookie QB Andy Dalton, the Titans get a crack at the #1 picked Newton and his superior athletic skill set. In other words, if the Titans thought Dalton was good, wait until they get a load of Newton. He seems to be one of those once in a generation stars who wins at every level of competition he plays in. He is able to do things most QBs should not be able to at 6”6 250 pounds. He is big enough to run over you and as the
Washington Redskins found out, and quick enough to juke you out of your shoes. The Titans will have their hands full not just with Newton but also his big time play maker at receiver, Steve Smith. Mighty Mouse has been brought back to life as Newton’s number 1 target in the Panthers offense. The Panthers are an exciting team to watch just because of these two guys.

The Titans of course are now sitting at 4-4 and if the playoffs started today they would be on the outside looking in. They have lost three of four and two of the losses have come at home. There last game against the Cincinnati Bengals was basically a sample of what the Titans have done this whole season. They have come out strong in most games, building leads in all but two games they’ve played this year only to give way eventually in the 2nd half. Dalton pickedhe Titans secondary to shreds in the second half as he brought the Bengals down from 10 points and threw 3 TDs passes to three different receivers. The Titans offensive line also had its troubles as they allowed Matt Hasselbeck take multiple sacks. Carlos Dunlap of the Bengals had two sacks and seemed to always be in Hasselbeck’s face.

The Titans also too often allowed the Bengals to convert on third down. They were 8/16 and it seemed they got every third down in the second half. The Titans did a decent job on RB Cedric Benson as he was held to just 78 yards on 20 carries. Speaking of RBs Chris Johnson showed glimpses of his old self as he had a few big gains in the first half. He gashed the Bengals for a 20, 18 and 12 yard runs in the 1st quarter. He also made a nice run after the catch on pass from Hasselbeck. Johnson faded in the 2nd half as the Bengals recognized he was getting loose and Johnson ended up finishing with 64 yards. Love him or hate him, the Titans have to continue to get Johnson involved as much as possible because when he finally does breakthrough he will add another dimension to this struggling offense.

The Panthers will present a totally different set of problems for the Titans. Newton’s scrambling ability has to have DC Jerry Gray’s attention. Newton has already broken former Titans’ Vince Young’s rookie record of rushing TDs with 7. And you also can’t sleep on Newton’s passing ability as he has already had put up two games of plus 400 yards and had another 374 yard passing game against the Chicago Bears.

Now lets breakdown the three key factors that will determine the game and make a final prediction for the Titans-Panthers clash.

1. Can the Titans control Newton’s big plays ability? As I stated above, this guy can drop an 80-yard pass or bust a 45-yard run on you at any moment. He has that big play mentality and seems to always be looking for his next opportunity. There hasn’t been a player drafted with his big play capability in my opinion since Michael Vick as they both have that combination of speed and a cannon arm. Newton has single handely transformed Carolina’s offense that finished last in terms of points and total offense last year, to a offense now that ranks fifth averaging 415.1 yards a game. Now of course when you are young player coupled with the fact that he is looking to make the over the top play, then you are going to make some over the top mistakes. Newton has thrown 11 TD passes and also 9 Ints. So his penchant seems to be big play or bust. The Titans have to take advantage of this as Newton’s feast or famine attitude can lead to big plays for the defense. On the flip side of the thinking if Newton gets into a groove early than he can unleash a barrage of explosive plays that the Titans may not be able to recover from.

2. How will Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans offense attack the Panthers porous defense? The Panthers come into this game giving up 8.35 yards per pass attempt, good for second worst in the league. They also give up 133.3 yards a game on the ground which is sixth most in the league and are tied for the most rushing TDs with 11. So that means that the Titans should have all kind of opportunities to make plays. OC Chris Palmer should have fun this week devising his offensive scheme against such a bad defense. Hasselbeck should have open passing lanes and should also look to get all his targets involved early. CJ has to find a way to get going against this defense as the odds are stacked in his favor. Everyone on the offense basically should have a big game. Tennessee has to come out and show some offensive creativity. There were too many times against the Bengals that it seemed the Titans got predictable. When your going against a team that isn’t very good on defense then you have a chance to do some things you don’t normally get to. I would love to see Johnson get a few opportunites in the wildcat offense with the ball coming directly to him. Maybe that would spark him. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Jake Locker get on the field and possibly run an option read with Johnson, similar to what Johnson and Vince Young did last year. Just a thought but a big unexpected play could spark the offense early and lead to some momentum.

3. How will the Titans respond coming off a lost? The last time the Titans lost they came out and whipped up on a winless Colts team 27-10 at home. This time they have to travel to Carolina and face a hungry team in the Panthers. Can they channel their emotions and pick up the win or will they fold down the strecth as they have seemed to do in all of their losses. The team as a whole has to right the ship because your getting to the point of the season when you either a contender or a pretender and the Titans are squarely on the bubble at 4-4. The leaders of the team have to stand up and tell their teammates the time is now to make their stance and don’t make this repeat of last year’s second half slide.

Prediction: Titans 23 Panthers 20


TITANS: Club has won 12 of past 13 games against NFC…QB MATT HASSELBECK has 90+ passer rating in 6 of 8 games in ’11. Hasselbeck (189) needs TD pass to reach 190 career. Hasselbeck has 6 TDs vs. 3 INTs & 88 passer rating on road this season…In 12 career games vs. NFC, RB CHRIS JOHNSON averages 106.3 rush yards per game (1,275). Johnson totaled 110 scrimmage yards last week (64 rushing, 46 receiving). Johnson (4,964) needs 36 rush yards to join EDDIE GEORGE & HOFer EARL CAMPBELL as 3rd player in franchise history to reach 5,000 career…WR LAVELLE HAWKINSrecorded 1st career TD catch last week. WR DAMIAN WILLIAMS has 3 TD catches in past 5 games…TE JARED COOK is averaging 16.7 yards per catch in ’11 (19 rec., 317 yards)…CB JASON MC COURTY leads team with 67 tackles…S MICHAEL GRIFFIN has 2 INTs in past 3 games vs. NFC opponents…DT SHAUN SMITH posted 1st sack of season last week…PANTHERS: Total (415.1 yards per game) & pass (285.5) offenses rank 5th in NFL…Rookie QB CAM NEWTON has completed 40 of 58 (69 pct.) for 546 yards with 4 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 121.8 rating in past 2. Passed for 1,381 yards in Oct., most in NFL history by rookie in any month. Has 4 games with 290+ yards, tied with PEYTON MANNING (1998) for most by rookie in NFL history. Ties for 3rd in NFL with 7 rush TDs. His 7 rush TDs tie VINCE YOUNG (2006) for most in season by rookie QB since 1970…In career, when RB JONATHAN STEWART has 15+ att., team is 14-3 (.824). RB DE ANGELO WILLIAMS has 4,574 rush yards & 983 rec. yards in career. Needs 17 rec. yards to become 1st player in franchise history with 4,000+ rush yards & 1,000+ rec. yards…WR STEVE SMITH leads NFC with 918 receiving yards. Has 5 100-yard games. In past 2, has 14 catches for 243 yards (121.5 per game) & TD. In only home game vs. Ten. (10/19/03), had 10 catches for 151 yards & TD (67 yards). TE GREG OLSEN has TD catch in 4 of past 6…DE CHARLES JOHNSON has 15 sacks in past 15. Rookie DT TERRELL MC CLAIN had 1st career sack in Week 8

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