In many ways, the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans are very similar teams. The two teams entered the season with their head coaches on the hot seat and had some controversy at the quarterback position. They both have fielded top-10 defenses, while also showing a penchant for racking up penalties.
The teams show a divergence when it comes to turnovers. The Titans and Kansas City Chiefs are the only two teams yet to turn the ball over even once this season. The Jets, on the other hand, have given up possession eight times.
The Titans will need to rely on turnovers and more to pull out a win against the Jets' tough defense.
Last week, I made the argument that the Titans needed to show a little bit more trust in Jake Locker and the passing game. The Titans finished the day with 282 yards passing and 170 yards rushing, showing a great mix of run and pass to keep the San Diego defense off balance.
The Jets defense ranks sixth in the league in run defense, allowing merely 79.7 yards a week. Chris Johnson hasn't been a world-beater through three weeks, but his 256 yards rushing has him ranked as the AFC's top running back.
The Titans will need Johnson, Jackie Battle and Locker to find some open lanes. This week will provide a great test of the Titans' identity as a run-first, physical football team. After Johnson bolted for a 94-yard touchdown run against the Jets last year, New York will be sure to emphasize shutting him down.
Whether Tennessee intends to keep hammering away at the Jets defense on the ground, the way it did against Pittsburgh, or pick the ball and throw like last week, the Titans offense is one that relies on balance to exploit mismatches.
Win the Turnover Battle
As stated earlier, the Jets have turned the ball over eight times through three games. As promising as Geno Smith looked for them last week, he has been involved in all but one of the team's interceptions and fumbles.
The Alterraun Verner has two interceptions and a fumble recovery already, after edging out Tommie Campbell in a position battle for No. 2 corner. Pro Football Focus has the Titans ranked fourth in pass coverage (subscription only), and Jets coach Rex Ryan told Titans online he has noticed a difference in the Titans' defensive scheme:
They’re pressuring way more than they did last year. That was pretty obvious. I think they’re like 36-37 percent pressure where they’re closer to 50 percent pressure but not quite to it. They’re definitely, from a schematic standpoint, way more man coverage than they were in the past.
The Titans will need to take advantage of Smith's inexperience to take advantage of shorter fields and put up some quick points.
Build Upon Passing Success
In each of the past two games, we've seen Locker drive the Titans 94-plus yards on drives that were almost all passing plays. Last week's game against the San Diego Chargers put a lot of Locker's abilities on display throughout the game.
He showed his ability to escape oncoming rushers, throw on the move, run for first downs and accuracy on short to intermediate throws. Locker still appears to struggle on deep passes. He is 3-of-16 on passes of 20 or more yards.
It appears that Locker either hasn't worked with his receivers enough to be able to better time his deep passes or that he simply lacks the accuracy to complete the passes. Watching the game against the Chargers, Locker overthrew the receivers on several occasions.
The coaching staff will need to continue to show trust in the young quarterback so that he may continue to develop. Averaging only 20 points per game so far, the Titans need to figure out how to put more points on the board. The passing game is the best way to do that.