The Titans will need a big game from Chris Johnson in order to beat the Chargers.
Last week's performance against the New England Patriots is over. This is a whole new week and a whole new game for the Tennessee Titans. They face a San Diego Chargers team coming fresh off a hard fought 22-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
As I stated in my last article on this game, the Titans have not beaten the Chargers since 1992. Since then, the Chargers have won seven straight games over the Titans/Oilers franchise.
Both teams boast very pedestrian running games. They combined for 52 rushing yards in Week 1, and both teams look to do much better. It won't be easy for the Titans, as the Chargers only allowed 45 total rushing yards against the Raiders.
The Chargers could benefit from having halfback Ryan Matthews back. Matthews missed all of preseason and last week's game due to a collarbone injury. The Titans gave up 162 yards on the ground last week against the Patriots, so look for the Chargers to try to take advantage of that.
Monday night's win came at the expense of two of the Chargers top three cornerbacks (Quentin Jammer and Shareece Wright). Jammer is probable, and will likely play today despite breaking his hand.
Wright won't play due to an ankle sprain.
Tight end Antonio Gates (ribs) is also questionable, and Jared Gaither (back) is out, according to the Chargers injury report.
The Titans are banged up as well. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy won't play due to an ankle injury suffered in the Titans' 34-13 loss to the Patriots. Back-up halfback Javon Ringer will miss his second straight game due to an elbow infection that nearly cost him his whole arm.
Quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder) and wide receivers Nate Washington (leg) and Kenny Britt (knee) are all listed as questionable, although it's expected that at least Locker and Britt will play. Although Britt will have a limit on his plays, Washington may not be able to go.
The Titans should get defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) back this week after he missed last week's game.
He practiced all week, and is officially listed as questionable, according to the injury report.
Three Keys For The Titans
Establish The Running Game
Chris Johnson unfairly takes a lot of the blame for the struggles of the run game, but if you look closely, the offensive line got absolutely no push against the Patriots. San Diego's run defense is pretty stout as well, so the offensive line has to man up this week, or else it could be another long day for Johnson and company.
Establishing the run will go a long way in taking pressure off the passing game.
Pressure Philip Rivers
Considering it was one of their weak points last year, the Titans actually didn't do a terrible job of pressuring Tom Brady last week. Kamerion Wimbley proved to be the big offseason acquisition that the Titans needed him to be, and he is making the defensive line better.
If the Titans give Rivers time to throw it to the likes of Robert Meachem or Gates (if he plays), they will be in huge trouble.
Win The Turnover Battle
That's really the key to any game.
The Titans failed to force any turnovers last week against the Patriots, and they failed to protect the ball themselves, turning it over twice (one interception, one fumble). The Chargers did not turn the ball over once against the Raiders, meaning the Titans will have to work extra hard in that category in order to get the victory this week.
I understand the Titans played pretty poorly against the Patriots, but it still shocks me how most NFL analysts are giving them no chance against the Chargers. If the Titans can finally establish the run against the Chargers, they should be in great position to win this game.
Not to take anything away from San Diego, but their running game is nothing like New England's. If Tennessee can shut them down, they will make the Chargers one dimensional, putting more pressure on Rivers.
I'm not guaranteeing a Titans victory, but this certainly is winnable either way.
Both Gates and Mathews will not play today. Marks is also inactive.