Titans could be in trouble this week, but Bucs will dominate
Among other topics, Scouts Inc. determines when the Titans will lose in this week's roundtable.
Who is Tennessee most likely to lose to? Which coach has underachieved the most, and which players will stand out this week? After watching all the film, Scouts Inc.'s pro scouts debate the hot topics heading into Week 9.
When will Tennessee lose its first game?Jeremy Green: Week 9 to Green Bay
I think they have a chance to lose this week versus the Packers. The Titans are coming off a big and emotional win versus the Colts, who have dominated them over the years, so the Titans could be somewhat mentally fatigued this week. Plus, they are playing an opponent they are not completely familiar with. The weakness of the Packers has been injuries in the secondary, but they are healthier now coming off their bye week. Green Bay is much better than its 4-3 record and if it can run the ball, I smell an upset.
Gary Horton: Week 11 at Jacksonville
I think the Titans have a decent chance of losing to the Jags, but they will be 9-0 when they get to that game after beating Green Bay and Chicago in the next two weeks. The Jaguars can beat the Titans because they can match their physicality, slow the game down and grind it out with their run game. The Jags need every win they can get to have a shot at making the postseason, and if Tennessee has a subpar week, Jacksonville could pull off the upset.
Keith Kidd: Week 9 to Green Bay
This is my upset special for the week. The Titans are coming off a short week after an impressive victory on "Monday Night Football" over the rival Colts, and the Packers are not a team you want to overlook -- especially coming off a bye. QB Aaron Rodgers is a perfect fit for Mike McCarthy's system, and the Packers have some explosive playmakers on offense that can stress the Titans' backend. Defensively, the Packers have struggled versus the run, but they can definitely commit an extra defender up near the line of scrimmage against the run, because the Titans lack explosive playmakers on the outside. The Packers should be able to outscore them Sunday.
Doug Kretz: Week 11 at Jacksonville
Tennessee travels to Jacksonville on November 16, and that could easily be the Titans' first loss. Tennessee relies on a strong ground game to set up its conservative air attack, and the Jags can be extremely difficult to run on when they are hitting on all cylinders. The Jaguars are currently 3-4 and have the Bengals and Lions in the next two weeks, so they are apt to be 5-4 going into this game, and their confidence should be high -- despite having their backs against the wall.
Ken Moll: Week 16 to Pittsburgh
There are several games that could cause problems for the Titans going forward, but the Steelers are built in a similar fashion -- a hard-nosed ground attack that sets up their passing game along with a suffocating defense. The Titans and Steelers are extremely well coached and rarely beat themselves. Tennessee has been more fortunate with regard to staying healthy, while Pittsburgh has been banged up. With several weeks to get healthy, I believe the Steelers will be the most complete club the Titans will play.
Tag Ribary: Week 9 to Green Bay
The Packers are coming off their bye week and getting healthier on both sides of the ball. This is a short week for Tennessee, and there could be some letdown after a big Monday-night win against division rival Indianapolis. Rodgers is a mobile quarterback that can avoid the rush and make accurate throws outside the pocket. Plus, the Packers have two good receivers, and it was right about this time last year that RB Ryan Grant and the running game started to kick in.
Matt Williamson: Week 9 to Green Bay
Call it a hunch, but I think the streak ends this week. The Packers are coming off a bye, so they have had two weeks to prepare, rest and practice against what the Titans will throw at them. Expect them to come out in three- and four-wide sets and use their real quick-hitting passing attack to neutralize the Titans' pass rush and fantastic run-stuffing abilities. Tennessee might just be ripe for a letdown after knocking off perennial divisional front-runner Indianapolis last week.
What coach has done the least with the most talent this year?Green: Chargers head coach Norv Turner
For me, it comes down to one of two teams -- the Vikings or Chargers. I am going to go with San Diego because Minnesota, at least coming into the season, had questions surrounding the quarterback position. Meanwhile, San Diego should have a top-5 defense, but are currently No. 28 overall. I do not need to pile on recently fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, but his defensive play calling had been miserable this season. There has been no creativity or blitz pressure, and it made one of the best CB tandems in the NFL -- Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie -- look below average. Turner did not call the plays on defense, but he is the head coach, which makes him responsible for this underachieving football team.
Horton: Chargers former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell
It probably doesn't seem fair to pile on a guy who just got fired, but this defense has played well below its talent level. They have excellent cover corners who should dominate, but the Chargers have the worst pass defense in the NFL. Even though ROLB Shawne Merriman is out for the year, the pass rush up front struggles and relies on LOLB Shaun Phillips too much. Because the Chargers' pass rush is struggling, their aggressive defensive backs have been susceptible to double moves because the quarterbacks have extra time. But the biggest problem with this defense is a vanilla attack scheme that doesn't go after offenses. That must change under new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, because that's what the players want and there is too much talent here to be so passive.
Without a doubt, it's Turner in San Diego, but Wade Phillips in Dallas is a close second. The Chargers are loaded with talent and play in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL. Firing Cottrell was a good move and may turn around the Chargers' season, but even at 3-5 they still have to play at Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, which should result in a 9-7 season for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Unbelievable.
Kretz: Vikings head coach Brad Childress
I'm going to go with Childress on this one. He has what should be a dominating defense and the most-feared ground game in the NFL. The passing game was supposed to be improved with the addition of WR Bernard Berrian, and all the Vikings had to do was avoid making mistakes while the ground game and defense won the game.
There is no question that the Chargers are one of the most talented clubs in the league and have truly underachieved through the first half of the season. Picked by most "experts" to win the AFC West and compete for a spot in the Super Bowl, they have managed only three wins in eight tries and look inept at times. The Chargers haven't been able to move the ball effectively on the ground as they have in the past. Yes, they score points, but the previous formula for winning games -- solid ground attack, high-percentage passes and a stingy defense -- hasn't been executed thus far.
At the beginning of the year, I had high expectations for Minnesota. Obviously the quarterback issue had an effect on how the Vikings started the year, but there is still a lot of other talent on that roster, and they had plenty of time to deal with worst-case scenarios in the offseason. With DE Jared Allen joining one of the top defenses, RB Adrian Peterson running behind a very good offensive line and the addition of Berrian, I thought they would be in a different position at the midway point. It's still early, but as of right now they aren't where many people thought they would be.
Williamson: Browns head coach Romeo Crennel
Turner jumps out for sure, but in his defense, much of his elite talent has battled injuries. San Diego will come out of its bye a totally different -- and dangerous -- football team. The Browns have also had their share of injuries to deal with, but the offensive regression here is really remarkable.
Based on matchups, who will deliver a big performance in Week 9?Green: Bears RB Matt Forte
He has been a little quiet of late, but I think Forte will have a big game versus Detroit. It seems like I pick on the Lions just about every week, but they make it pretty easy because of their lack of playmakers on that side of the ball. The Bears are at home and they are physical up front in the run game. I expect Forte to be able to attack the middle of the Lions' defense, which is limited at the DT position. Chicago is also competing for a division title, so don't expect it to be real cute on offense this week. The Bears know the Lions can't stop the run, so they will pound Forte on the ground all day. I think he will have at least 100 yards and two scores.
Horton: Giants DEs Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka
Cowboys OTs Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo are really struggling with speed rushers off the edge. Dallas will try to move a tight end or back to one side to help out, usually versus Tuck, but they can't help and chip on both. Last week, Pittsburgh doubled Tuck and blocked Kiwanuka one-on-one and he responded with three sacks. The Giants are so smart that they will adjust their entire scheme to get their defensive ends in one-on-one situations. For example, if Tuck has a TE and OT assigned to him, the Giants will blitz a LB from the outside to force the TE to go wide and block. That leaves Tuck one-on-one versus the RT. On the other side, the Giants will bring a LB through the B-gap to force the LT to step inside to pick up the blitz, and that gives Kiwanuka a free shot at the QB -- unless a back stays in to block. This defense is great at devising schemes that create those one-on-one matchups, and they will give Dallas fits.
For you fantasy lovers out there, play the Tampa Bay defense against Kansas City. If you haven't noticed, the Bucs' defense has played at a very high level all season under coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Chiefs are going to have a very difficult time moving the ball against a fast and aggressive Buccaneers defense that plays very physical and will place a lot of pressure on the Chiefs' running game and QB Tyler Thigpen.
Kretz: Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia
Garcia could have a huge day versus Kansas City. The Chiefs can't seem to stop anybody on the ground and are apt to crowd the box with eight or nine defenders, which will open up a lot of passing lanes on the backend against their Cover 2 scheme. Garcia understands the West Coast offense -- almost as well as head coach Jon Gruden -- and will be free to check out of run plays to take advantage of an undermanned secondary when he sees Kansas City crowd the box.
Moll: Buccaneers RB Earnest Graham
Gruden wants to establish an effective rushing attack to set up his West Coast passing game, but he was stymied in Week 8 versus the Cowboys. The Buccaneers will make a concerted effort to pound the ball with Graham against a defense that has yielded 196.9 yards per game. Graham is an excellent downhill runner with great vision and inline foot agility. Tampa Bay's offensive linemen will want to redeem themselves after their worst outing (49 yards on the ground) last week and make a statement by controlling the tempo and clock in this matchup.
Ribary: Eagles RB Brian Westbrook
With LB Lofa Tatupu and DE Patrick Kerney possibly out with injuries, Westbrook's versatility will pose a challenge for the Seahawks. His ability to line up all over and make plays as a runner or receiver creates a lot of matchup problems.
Williamson: Broncos QB Jay Cutler and Dolphins RBs
I am picking two, but they are from the same game and will determine the outcome between Denver and Miami. Conventional thinking suggests that Cutler and Denver's passing game should shred the Dolphins' secondary, but it also suggests that Dolphins RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should destroy the Broncos' woeful run defense. I suppose both could happen, but whichever team's strength abuses the other's team weakness will win in Denver.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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