Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions: Thanksgiving Preview

William BlakeCorrespondent INovember 26, 2008

The Week 13 match-up for the Tennessee Titans is a Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions in Michigan.

And a feast it will be!

No, seriously; the chance that Tennessee loses is next to none. Although the secondary will need to have their guard up, as they face one of the NFL's most explosive wide receivers in Calvin Johnson.

He is one of the league's best combinations of speed, size, and hands. He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the 2007 NFL Combine. The Lions have him listed at 6'5" and 239 pounds. He has also caught 48 passes from quarterbacks such as Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna, and Dan Orlovsky.

Indeed, Cortland Finnegan will be busy with Johnson. The rest of the Lions receivers are also capable of making plays. No. 2 option Shaun McDonald has 31 receptions, and third string Mike Furrey has 18. Tight end Michael Gaines is also capable of having a big day.

Nick Harper is looking likely to play Thursday, as he had to sit out against the New York Jets in Week 12. His ankle had healed, and he will greatly help the secondary. Safeties Michael Griffin and Chris Hope are also capable of playing good coverage, as they each have four interceptions on the season. I would expect any of the four members of the secondary to pick off Culpepper.

That is, if Culpepper isn't on his back all day. I project Albert Haynesworth, who ripped open the Jets offensive line, to get two or three sacks. He got back on track, recording 1.5 sacks against New York. Tony Brown, the team's other defensive tackle, should use his quicker build to give the line a strong variety.

Defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse should also be able to get some pressure. Vanden Bosch is coming off of the groin injury, and returned to play the Jets last week. He did very well, getting engaged in many gang tackles. He had six total, but just two solo hits. He also had half of a sack with Haynesworth. 

Expectations for Vanden Bosch should be modest, but knowing how tough he is, he could just as well go off. Kearse, or "The Freak", has done everything needed. Obviously, at age 32, he's a little slower than the rest of the line, but continues to make hits and bust through lines. A game against the Lions weak offensive line could be his biggest of the year.

As far as the linebackers go, I expect Keith Bulluck to get involved early and often in many blitz schemes. That way, you get even more pressure on the mobile Culpepper. David Thornton will probably stay back and watch Gaines, but I expect him to get his share of tackles. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch has really stepped up this season, and has assumed the starting role from Ryan Fowler. I want to see another good game from the young linebacker.

However, on offense, I need to see a little bit more than what they might be capable of. I don't want to see Kerry Collins throw 30 or 40 passes. I think the Titans should stick to their guns, which is riding on the back of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Tennessee needs to use White early to slow Cory Redding on the Lions defensive line, then use Johnson on sweeps and off tackle plays to rack up yardage, then go back to White and punch in some touchdowns. 

Johnson and White could both have 100-yard days, just as they did against the Kansas City Chiefs. Honestly, I don't think the running game has been the same since the Chiefs game. They need to get back on track against a weaker defense, and progressively work their way up until playing the defensive juggernaut of Pittsburgh in Week 16.

As for Collins, I don't want to see anything other than what he's been doing, except maybe 15 fewer passing attempts. This could also be the game where Collins develops rhythm with a wide receiver. Brandon Jones and Justin Gage seem to be the top candidates.

Gage is coming off of an injury, and has played inconsistently since. Jones has played consistently all season, but seems to always hide behind either Gage or tight end Bo Scaife as the second receiver in every game. He also has only caught one of Collins' nine touchdowns. I need to see one of these guys step up and make six catches or so.

I'm also interested in maybe seeing Vince Young a series or two. No one has mentioned this or talked about it all, but I wonder if the Titans get up big, whether they might insert Young for an offensive series or two. I'd be interested to see if offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has really worked with him at all over the 12 week span since his last start.

As for the actual course of the game, I expect Tennessee's defense to shut down any running Kevin Jones or Rudi Johnson might do. Culpepper is also doomed for a bad outing. Tennessee will get up by about 10 in the first quarter and will go full throttle and lead by around 17 at halftime. I expect Detroit to be lucky to score three points all day, and Tennessee to be disappointing if they don't get close to 30.


Final Score

Titans - 34 | Lions - 3



Chris Johnson, Titans. From 18-23 carries and from 110-160 yards rushing. About 40 yards receiving as well.


Fantasy Top 5

1. Chris Johnson: 24 points

2. LenDale White: 19 points

3. Titans D/ST: 17 points

4. Kerry Collins: 14 points

5. Bo Scaife: 13 points