The Denver Broncos travel to the south where southern hospitality does not include welcoming opposing football teams with open arms. As Music City sings its fine country tunes from Music Row, the Broncos will try to go for the kill next to the Cumberland for the second year in a row. Just like the Broncos, the Tennessee Titans sit at 1-1 and are tied for second place in the AFC South. The Titans are entering this game with a boat load of confidence after beating the always tough Baltimore Ravens 26-13 in week two. This is a Titan of a game for the Broncos who have some difficult games coming up in Green Bay next week and then against the Chargers in week five. First thing’s first, however. A win this week goes a long way. Fun fact: These teams have met just four times since 1992.
Broncos: The Broncos could be getting some key players back on offense. Brandon Lloyd is set to take the Sunday stage once again as he was back at practice participating fully Thursday. Knowshon Moreno also says that he will be ready to go on Sunday. Surprisingly, Lloyd wasn’t missed last week as Eric Decker stepped into his big shoes and had over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Both of these guys will be tested by a strong Titans’ secondary that includes feisty Cortland Finnegan. It’s a great thing to have two very good deep threats against this defense. Even with Moreno back, look for Willis McGahee to take more carries than Moreno. His 100+ yard performance last week will be rewarded with more carries. Limiting turnovers against this team is absolutely key. They have the offensive horsepower to make you pay quickly and then they have a backfield that is good enough to kill the clock. The Broncos also have to score touchdowns. The thick sea level air doesn’t allow for 55-yard field goals.
Titans: Matt Hasselbeck has tormented Broncos’ defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in the past – in the recent past. Less than one year ago, Hasselbeck was the hero of Seattle after throwing 4 TDs against the Saints and upsetting them in the first-round of the NFC playoffs. Now that this team has a legit QB, this Grand Ole Offense looks deadly. Chris Johnson isn’t producing like he was a year ago, but then again, the team doesn’t have to rely on him entirely. Kenny Britt is second in the league in receiving yards and third in touchdowns. Suddenly, this Titans team is not one-dimensional anymore. Johnson has only averaged 2.3 yards per carry thus far with a long run of 9 yards, but as we know, he’s very capable of having a breakout game. Britt and Johnson’s game status was in question earlier this week due to injuries, but they have both been upgraded to full participation at practice.
Broncos: In the same state where the King of Rock-and-Roll swiveled his hips, the Titans’ current King of Heave-and-Hurl, Matt Hasselbeck, is a legitimate concern for this defense. This isn’t going to be like playing rookie QB Andy Dalton of the Bengals. Hasselbeck is great at limiting mental errors if he’s not pressured by the defense. However, when the defense brings the pass rush, Hasselbeck has been known to throw a pick. Elvis Dumervil has been limited in practice this week and the Broncos certainly won’t rush (no pun intended) their Pro Bowl end into playing this early on in the season. Von Miller, Brian Dawkins, and Wesley Woodyard picked things up for the Broncos defensively last week. The major concern here is the young guys in the secondary, Rahim Moore and Cassius Vaughn, and their ability to contain Kenny Britt.
Titans: The Titans have one of the strongest defensive lines in football. Here’s the real test for Willis McGahee and his running companions. The Titans pass defense is ranked 3rd and their rush defense is ranked 14th. Initially, look for the Broncos to favor the run just to open things up downfield later in the game. The Titans are allowing just 14.5 points per game, good enough to be sandwiched between the Jets and the Ravens, respectfully. There will be no southern hospitality for Kyle Orton and his crew. The Titans are not on the high end when it comes to making big plays (forced fumbles, sacks, interceptions, etc.), but they consistently end drives with hard-nosed defense.
Broncos: This game could likely come down to field position. Having Britton Colquitt on the Broncos side is a major plus. His punting has been off the charts recently. Cassius Vaughn and Eric Decker will resume return duties, but how about throwing Knowshon Moreno into that mix? He’s a better runner when he has some space to work with.
Titans: Former Bronco punter Brett Kern is now a Titan. He’s doing a fine job there with three punts landing inside the 10 and four punts landing inside the 30 (Out of 10 total punts). Marc Mariani is the sole return man for the team, but he’s yet to handle a kick return (thanks to the new ball placement rule).
Broncos: John Fox’s next man up until it’s the last man up approach worked last week. He’s a smart coach that knows how to motivate and instill wisdom into his players. He’s made the executive decision to leave for Tennessee a day early to help his players get used to waking up early for their early kickoff on Sunday.
Titans: We’re so used to seeing Jeff Fisher on the Tennessee sidelines, but this year it’s Mike Munchak leading the team, and to say he’s familiar with it is an understatement. Munchak was at one time a Titan himself, and he was the offensive line coach for the team since 1997. Prior to that he was an offensive assistant since 1994 when the team was the Houston Oilers. He knows the culture of the fan base, he knows the ins and outs of the team, and if any guy was going to continue on Jeff Fischer’s long-lasting legacy, it was going to be Munchak. So far, he has the Titans looking lean and mean, but are they the team that lost to the Jaguars in week one or are they the team that beat the purple out of the Ravens in week two?
Prediction: Titans – 28 Broncos – 24.
Here’s hoping for a bad prediction!