How the Tennessee Titans Will Make the Playoffs: Keys to Winning out This Season
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The Tennessee Titans (7-5) have won three out of their last four games and are in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Trailing Houston by two games in the AFC South, Tennessee's remaining schedule consists of four winnable games (NO, JAX, IND, HOU).
If Chris Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck and the aggressive Titan D can stay consistent for the remainder of the season, Tennessee can make a realistic run at the playoffs.
Saints (12/11): Limit Drew Brees and the New Orleans Passing Attack
Michael Griffin leads the Titans secondary
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The Titans secondary has done a good job defending the deep pass lately, but the Saints have a plethora of players who regularly make catches.
Drew Brees has been spreading the ball throughout his offensive weapons, with eight different players catching a touchdown this season, five of whom have three or more.
Michael Griffin, Cortland Finnegan and the Titans pass defense have their work cut out for them this weekend, as Brees is coming off a three-touchdown, 129.3-passer-rating game against a defensive-powered Detroit team.
All season, the Titans have only allowed one receiver to reach over 100 yards receiving in a game (Roddy White, 147) and rank 18th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, allowing 233.5 passing yards per game to opponents.
The Titans front four need to put pressure on Brees and disrupt his comfort in the pocket, forcing him to make mistakes, which is not easy.
At Colts (12/18): Chris Johnson Must Dominate the Ground Game
Chris Johnson has rushed for over 150 yards in two straight games
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The Titans have won three out of their past four games and a big factor to their recent success has been the effectiveness of the rushing attack.
Chris Johnson had the worst start to this season, only rushing for an average of 44.7 yards per game in the first six games of the season. The Titans went 3-3 in that span only because of Kenny Britt's early season dominance.
Johnson has rushed for more yards in the past two games (343) than he did throughout the first seven games (302).
The Colts have not won a game all season (0-12) and rank 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. This is a perfect recipe for the hot C.J. to take his skills to Indianapolis and take care of business.
He hasn't posted a 200-rushing-yard game yet this season, could this be the game he does it?
Jags (12/24): Titans D Heavy Blitzing on Rookie Blaine Gabbert
Titans defense disrupted another rookie QB this season, placing pressure on Cam and totaling five sacks.
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The Jaguars offensive line has not been doing enough for rookie Blaine Gabbert. He has been sacked a total of 28 times, tied for the fifth most in the NFL.
Tennessee faced another rookie quarterback this season in Cam Newton, a force that has been difficult to stop.
However, the Titans constantly pressured Newton, came up with five sacks on the day and completed the 30-3 win, totally dominating on the defensive side of the ball.
Jason Jones, Dave Ball and Karl Klug have combined for 10 sacks on the season this far, totaling 63 yards lost on those sacks.
It's important for Tennessee to get pressure on the quarterback early in the game, setting the tone for relentless aggressiveness from the defense.
Plus, this one is a home game for Tennessee and expect the crowd to be a major factor if the Titans are still in the thick of the playoff hunt.
At Texans (1/1): It All Comes Down to the Houston Game
Chris Johnson was held to just 18 yards on 10 carries in Houston's week seven 41-7 rout of the Titans.
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In what could be the biggest Houston-Tennessee matchup of all time, expect a playoff spot to be on the line in this final game of the season.
Titans fans are hoping for a chance to steal the division from the Texans and the final game of the season is a must-win in order to do so.
The Titans were dismantled in Week 7 against the Texans when Arian Foster ran all over the Tennessee defense, finishing the game with 234 total yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.
Tennessee will have to play the exact opposite if they want to have a chance at earning the division title.
That's much easier said than done against a Houston team that rank top five in the NFL in rushing yards per game (third, 152.6), passing yards allowed per game (fourth, 183.4) and rushing yards allowed per game (fourth, 90.7).
T.J. Yates is the quarterback after Schaub and Leinart both went out for the season. Another case of facing an inexperienced quarterback, but Foster has been the star all season with 1,426 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns for the 9-3 Texans.
Foster must be stopped and the Texans defense must be contained in order for Hasselbeck to lead the offense and win the most crucial game of the season.