The Tennessee Titans (7-2) host the New Orleans Saints (5-3) inside Nissan Stadium for a crucial Week 10 matchup. Both teams have playoff aspirations and are going to have to overcome a plethora of injuries if they’re going to leave Sunday with a win.
Following last nights Ravens loss, the Titans are entering this weekend as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and they will be leaving this weekend as the No. 1 seed regardless of what happens around the league.
Tennessee now has the opportunity to start creating separation from the rest of the conference with a win on Sunday as they have their eyes set on that coveted first-round bye.
There are several intriguing players to watch in this one, so let’s take a closer look at who we should be watching for on Sunday when the Titans host the Saints.
RB Jeremy McNichols
The Titans are going with a running back by committee approach to try and fill the void left by Derrick Henry’s absence. Jeremy McNichols has been a consistent asset when catching the ball out of the backfield and I’d expect we see more of that against the Saints to help offset their aggressive defense. On top of his contributions in the passing game, McNichols produced 24 yards on seven carries (3.4 YPC). Look for the Boise State product to consistently see touches throughout the game.
RB Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson was added to the roster shortly after Henry’s injury became public news. Despite only tallying 21 yards on 10 carries (2.1 YPC), Peterson looked spry and showed an explosive burst that shows he still has something left in the tank. However, It was pretty obvious that the Oklahoma product still had some work to do with getting used to his blockers and with the scheme in general. It will be interesting to see how much Peterson’s numbers start to improve the more comfortable he gets in the offense. Expect Peterson to get his fair share of carries throughout his he game.
RB D’Onta Foreman
You could argue that Foreman looked the best out of all three of the Titans’ running backs last Sunday night against the Rams. The Texas product only had five carries, but he led the team with 29 rushing yards (5.8 YPC). Foreman has a familiarity with this Titans offense, coaching staff, scheme, etc., as he spent six games on the roster last season and played well when he was called upon.
Foreman produced 95 yards on 22 carries (4.3 YPC) six of those carries accounted for first downs to help extend drives (27.27%).
One of these three running backs listed above is going to separate itself from the pack. By the first impression, it seems like Foreman has a legitimate chance to be the one to do so. Keep your eyes peeled for how Foreman and the rest of the running backs perform against a stout Saints defense.
LT Taylor Lewan
Last week Taylor Lewan suffered an unfortunate setback that ultimately sidelined him against the Rams. The Titans’ left tackle has had an up-and-down road in his first season post-ACL injury. Outside of the Week 1 disaster and the Week 4 embarrassment to the Jets, Lewan has played extremely well all year long. Yet, for whatever reason, he has been one player who has been getting overly crucified just because he suffers the occasional medical setback.
The Michigan legend seems to be on track to play on Sunday and he will have his chance to quiet his naysayers once again. Lewan will have his hands full as Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are one of the more talented pair of edge-rushers in the league. Be on the lookout for how Lewan responds following last week’s setback.
WR A.J. Brown
Last week the Ole Miss product only finished with five catches for 42 yards on 11 targets — easily the lowest total of his career when seeing double-digit targets. His previous career low on 10+ targets was 114 receiving yards. Brown’s day was riddled with drops and clear frustration being amplified by the antics of Jalen Ramsey.
Fortunately for everyone involved, the Titans’ receiver tends to bounce back anytime he has an off night. And as good as the Saints are defensively, especially at cornerback, they don’t have anyone that can mentally get you off your game the way Ramsey can.
With Derrick Henry still on the sideline, look for Brown to get back on track this Sunday as the targets should be coming early and often.
The combination of Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, & Bud Dupree has accounted for 20.5 sacks this season. In fact, 19 of those sacks have come during a standard four-man pass rush (T-1st in NFL).
Tennessee’s defense has a knack for getting pressure without having to blitz. The Titans generate pressure on 30% of their snaps when only four are rushing which is the second-highest pressure percentage in the entire league.
After going through a four-week stretch where the Titans saw upper echelon quarterbacks, Tennessee’s front four now has the responsibility of getting after Trevor Siemian and the Saints’ injury-riddled offense. If Landry, Simmons, Autry, & Dupree can continue their dominance upfront, Tennessee should be able to leave Nissan Stadium with a record of 8-2.
FS Kevin Byard
Kevin Byard has officially evolved from a ball-hawking safety to a complete, all-around DPOY caliber player.
The Mayor of Murfreesboro has accounted for 40 total tackles, five interceptions (2nd in NFL), 11 passes defended (3rd in NFL), one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two defensive touchdowns. According to NextGenStats, Byard has the highest ‘BallHawk’ rate in the league with a 42% which is the percentage of targets where the nearest defender made a play on the ball (an interception or pass deflection).
This week he gets the privilege of facing a journeyman quarterback. Look for Byard to try and bait Siemian into a backbreaking turnover(s) as he tries to continue adding to his defensive player of the year résumé.
CB Kristian Fulton
Kristian Fulton was recently activated off injured reserve and has been practicing all week without any noteworthy setbacks. This would be a massive addition to a defense that is on fire at the moment. If the Titans can get Fulton back to playing at the level he was before the hamstring injury, this Titans defense is going to be scary for any offense.
The LSU product is capable of matching up and holding his own against the opposing best receiver. Combine that with the pass rush being able to generate pressure with just four guys. Fulton’s return has the potential to turn this Titans defense into a legitimate and balanced behemoth. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the week for any official news on Fulton’s activation.
Honorable mention: QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Julio Jones, ILB David Long, S Amani Hooker,