Bears vs. Titans: A Matchup Preview

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

Johnson needs to break some open-field runs in order to lift the Titans.
Johnson needs to break some open-field runs in order to lift the Titans.Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

After dropping a heart-breaker to Indianapolis, the Tennessee Titans have no time to wallow in their misery.

The best team in the NFL is coming to Nashville.

The 3-5 Titans take on the 6-1 Chicago Bears in Week 9, and it represents the Titans' last gasp for 2012.

Here's everything you need to know about the game.


What it Means

The Titans really don't have a clear path to the playoffs, but they could carve one out if they started pulling off upsets against the league's best teams.

The game could also represent the end of the Matt Hasselbeck era. A poor performance against a stout defense, plus the healing left shoulder of Jake Locker could bring the curtain down on Hasselbeck's tenure as a starter.

Chicago is trying to firm up control of the NFC North, arguably the toughest division in football. They see this game against the Titans as a respite from the brutal gantlet of NFC foes they face.


Matchup to Watch

Chicago corners vs. Titans receivers

The Titans have invested a lot in their receiving corps, but the passing game hasn't fully flourished in 2012.

The Bears are riding veteran corners Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman to one of the most fearsome pass defenses around.

Teams haven't been shy about going after Jennings all season, routinely targeting him. He faced 17 passes against the Panthers.

He's made them pay with six interceptions on the season and is allowing just over a 50 percent completion percentage against him.

When Jennings does give up plays, they tend to be long. The average completion against him is 11.1 yards (courtesy of Pro Football Focus).

Tillman is no picnic either. He and Jennings will flop sides so there's no sure way of knowing which Titans' receiver each will draw. Tillman tends to give up shorter receptions, but at a higher completion rate. He has a pair of picks of his own.

The trio of Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright may have to wait another week for their breakout performance as a unit.


Stat that Matters

23 and 8

The Bears force more turnovers than any team in the NFL. They've picked off 16 passes and have recovered seven fumbles.

The Titans are 30th in forced turnovers, with just eight.

Turnovers are an accelerant to upsets, but the numbers don't favor the Titans here.


Biggest Advantage for Tennessee

Chris Johnson has the ability to be a game-changer, and he represents the Titans' best hope for an upset.

The Bears play outstanding run defense, but their pass defense is even better.

If the Titans are going to win, it's going to be because Johnson has a transcendent game on the ground.

The needle is pointing up on Johnson. From Week 4 on, Johnson has 550 yards rushing, and is averaging 5.6 yards a carry.

Having a red-hot running back may be the only hope the Titans have to win.


Biggest Advantage for Chicago

The Bears have the best pass defense in the NFL. They have the best DVOA and have picked off the most passes.

The Titans languish toward the bottom of the league in passing offense.

It's difficult for a team to come from behind when they are playing a lockdown pass defense. Add in a fearsome pass rush for Chicago, and it could be a long afternoon for the Titans.

Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game


The Titans Will Win If...

Chris Johnson gets hot and Jay Cutler throws several interceptions.

The Titans just don't square up well with the Bears, who are locking down opposing offenses. Chicago doesn't have the best offensive attack, but the Titans' defense has been so weak, it's hard to believe it will matter.

A lot of improbable things have to happen for the Titans to pull off this upset.


The Bears Will Win If...

they can get off to an early lead.

The Bears feature a tireless running game, and they are more than happy to grind away at opposing defenses.

We already saw the Titans wear down dramatically against Indianapolis, getting gashed for big run plays on the final Colts drives. The Bears hope to use that same formula, only with a lead.

Chicago wants to get in front and force the Titans to pass.

Once the Bears' secondary senses the opposing quarterback is desperate, they strike.



Chicago may well be the best team in the NFL. The Titans haven't played their best football all season, and while there may be a competent team lurking somewhere inside, it's hard to see it coming out this week.

Look for the Bears to force turnovers, capitalize on short fields and grind out a win that's a little closer than expected.

Chicago 28, Tennessee 20


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