Cardinals vs. Titans: Breaking Down Tennessee's Game Plan

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Cardinals vs. Titans: Breaking Down Tennessee's Game Plan
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The Week 14 tilt between the Tennessee Titans (5-8) and Arizona Cardinals (8-5) features two franchises going in completely opposite directions.

Arizona fields a surging unit headed toward the final NFC playoff spot. Tennessee has dropped four of its last five games to nearly fall out of the postseason picture altogether.

Ahead is the game plan for the Titans to make this a competitive contest and throw their names back into the ring of playoff contenders.

 

Offensive Game Plan

Spread the Ball

The Cardinals pass defense ranks 12th in the NFL, allowing just 227 yards per contest, according to ESPN.com, but they'll be without their stud rookie Tyrann Mathieu. The free safety tore his ACL and LCL in Arizona's win over the St. Louis Rams last week, reported ESPN.com.  

Not having the ball-hawking safety should open up Tennessee's offense with Justin Hunter, who is quickly emerging as one of Tennessee's consistent deep threats, and Kendall Wright, who continues to keep the defense honest with his short crossing routes. The expected return of Delanie Walker should keep the Arizona attack on its heels as it's struggled to contain tight ends for most of the season.

 

Control the Pace

Tennessee showed last week that it can't compete in a shootout. The Titans will need to control the pace by not forcing the offense to air the ball out all afternoon. They'll need to attempt to run the ball consistently against the Cardinals' top-tier run defense. 

While Chris Johnson has struggled to find running room and Shonn Greene hasn't been much better, the Titans will hope to get on top early with their pass game and find some balance on offense in order to bleed the clock.

 

Don't Turn the Ball Over

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In the past two games, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has turned the ball over five times (four interceptions and one fumble), according to NFL.com. To compete with the red-hot Cardinals, Fitzpatrick will need to tone his game back to a more conservative style of play.

While he's taken the brunt of the blame recently for the Titans' woes, having a competent returner in Leon Washington on special teams should help to alleviate some of the pressure moving forward. 

 

Defensive Game Plan

Attack the Quarterback

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According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Carson Palmer has been sacked 36 times this season, the most of his 10-year career. 

Although he hasn't had a stout season, and has just four sacks on the year, Derrick Morgan should feast on left tackle Bradley Sowell all afternoon. The Titans have 31 sacks on the season, via ESPN.com, and should see that number increase against a struggling offensive line. 

 

Shut Down the Passing Game

While getting to the quarterback can surely stop the Arizona offense, Tennessee can't expect to do that on every play. That's why they'll need cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty to step up against stud receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald

Verner was picked on all game by Peyton Manning last week in Denver, so he should be fired up to play and take his frustrations out on the Cardinals offense. The Titans defense must keep things in front of them and force Palmer to turn the ball over, something he's only done twice in the last four games, according to ESPN.com

 

Plug the Run

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The Titans have been dreadful stopping the run this season, but luckily for them, Arizona's two rushers haven't had an outstanding year, either. Rashard Mendenhall has rushed for just 508 yards, while Andre Ellington has notched 487 on the ground.

If Tennessee can keep Arizona's offense from achieving the big play and can control the run game, the Titans might have a shot to win this contest and keep their playoff dreams alive. 

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