Week 7 kicked off with a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Chiefs and the Broncos. The headline of the game was the injury of Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes dislocated his knee cap, and he will be out about 3 weeks. The Chiefs took care of business and won 30-6. The Chiefs defense played a surprisingly good game as Joe Flacco fumbled 3 times and threw for just 213 yards. Here are the rest of the NFL games this week:
Raiders vs Packers SUN 12:00pm CT
Rams vs Falcons SUN 12:00pm CT
49ers vs Redskins SUN 12:00pm CT
Texans vs Colts SUN 12:00pm CT
Vikings vs Lions SUN 12:00pm CT
Jaguars vs Bengals SUN 12:00pm CT
Cardinals vs Giants SUN 12:00pm CT
Dolphins vs Bills SUN 12:00pm CT
Titans vs Chargers SUN 3:05pm CT
Ravens vs Seahawks SUN 4:25pm CT
Saints vs Bears SUN 4:25pm CT
Eagles vs Cowboys SUN 7:20pm CT
Patriots vs Jets MON 7:15pm CT
Teams on BYE: Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The most intriguing games of Week 7 are Raiders vs Packers, Vikings vs Lions, Ravens vs Seahawks, Eagles vs Cowboys, and Titans vs Chargers.
At 2-4, I do not think the Titans season is over. A loss against the Chargers would be detrimental but I believe the season is salvageable. A change at Quarterback may be just what the Titans needed. Tannehill has good arm strength and he is more willing to throw the ball downfield than Mariota. I believe Tannehill is playing for a job next season so I think he will be playing his best against the Chargers. My very bold prediction for this week is Tannehill will throw 3 TD passes. This is optimistic but I think Tannehill will provide the offense with a spark. The offensive line must have a good game in order for this to happen but I would not completely count out a good game by Tannehill.
The Chargers have been struggling, like the Titans. The Chargers have been plagued with injuries but they still have a talented roster, especially on offense. The players that standout are RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen, WR Mike Williams, and TE Hunter Henry. I think Philip Rivers is solid and he could have a great game any week. Here are my keys to the game:
1. Run the Ball & block
I have mentioned the importance of running the ball every week. In order to open up the passing game, the Titans and Derrick Henry must establish the run game. In order to run effectively, the Offensive Line must block. Through the first 6 weeks, Derrick Henry has the lowest yards before contact in the NFL at 0.8 yards. This proves that the Offensive Line is not doing their job. If the interior Offensive Lineman can play a solid game, the Titans can establish the run and really get Henry going for the first time this season.
2. Slow down the Chargers offense
Similar to the Falcons, the Chargers have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. They have not played great this season, but they have a lot of potential. In 2017, the Titans drafted Corey Davis 5th overall, over Chargers WR Mike Williams. They have had similar careers thus far but I give the edge to Williams. It will be interesting to see how the two WRs play. I think Corey Davis could breakout with Tannehill at QB. The Titans defense has been among the best in the league, allowing just 16 points per game. If the defense plays a solid game and prevents Austin Ekeler from breaking out, I think the Titans will win. Keenan Allen also scares me but I think Malcom Butler will do a good job of containing him.
3. Play consistently on Special Teams
Special teams was a problem through the first couple weeks of the season. The punt return game and the kicking have been the two biggest problems so far. Since putting Adam Humphries at PR, the Titans have not had as many problems. Kicking has been a huge problem and has cost the Titans two games. Against the Colts, Cairo Santos missed a possible game solidifying field goal. And of course, against the Bills, Santos missed 4 field goals. New Kicker, Cody Parkey, will be under the microscope but he has not been talked about with the recent QB controversy. I hope the fate of the game does not come down to Parkey kicking the ball but it may. The last part of the special teams is punting, and Punter Brett Kern has been incredible this season. Kern has been the best punter in the league. Last week, he landed 8 of 9 punts inside the 20 yard line. A consistent return game and good kicking can be very important Sunday against the Chargers.
This week is crucial for the Titans. The Titans are toward the beginning of a string of games that are very winnable. A win against the Chargers would be great and could build momentum. The next 4 games are vs Chargers, vs Buccaneers, @ Panthers, and vs Chiefs. All these games are very winnable, and if the Titans can win them all, they will be 6-4 going into the bye week. Week 10 could be a different story if Mahomes plays but 5-5 would still be great after an extremely poor 2-4 start.
If the Titans were to lose, 2-5 would likely bring personnel changes. Only 3 three teams in the last decade have made the playoffs after a 2-5 start. This is likely unimportant but the Titans have lost 12 of the last 13 meetings against the Chargers. Last season, the Titans lost to the Chargers in London after Mike Vrabel made a poor decision to try and win the game by attempting a two point conversion.
This week could be a turning point for the Titans. It really could go either way but it could be the beginning of a win streak. If Tannehill can provide a spark, and the offense can put up 20 points per game, the Titans can win a lot of games. I am predicting a 28-18 Titans win. The Titans defense has been incredible this season and I think they will continue that against the Chargers.
The play of Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line will likely be the deciding factors of this game. If Tannehill and the line can show up and play well enough, the Titans are very capable of winning this game.