Tale Of The Tape: Tennessee Titans At Denver Broncos
- QuarterbackRyan Fitzpatrick is a more-than-adequate backup for starting quarterback Jake Locker, but there are clearly flaws in his game. Fitzpatrick is completely unafraid on the field, and any time he sees the smallest openings, he’s not going to hesitate. That means he’s going to leave his team open to interceptions, and that’s something the Titans can’t afford in this game. Fitzpatrick must protect the ball.Peyton Manning continues to get the job done and lead the Broncos in an exemplary way. After beating the Chiefs for the second time in three weeks, the Broncos can claim homefield advantage in the AFC by winning out. Manning has had a remarkable year, throwing 41 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions as he outsmarts nearly every defense he confronts.
- OffenseThe Titans would have a much better chance of competing for 60 minutes in this game if they could get a consistent effort from running back Chris Johnson, but he is averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Fitzpatrick has a more-than-adequate receiving crew in Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and tight end Delanie Walker (concussion). Washington has explosive speed, while Walker should be a red-zone factor.Knowshon Moreno is one of the most underrated performers in the league and he has run hard this season in gaining 842 yards and averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Wide receiver Eric Decker had a spectacular game in the Week 13 win over the Chiefs, catching eight passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas is an explosive deep threat while Wes Welker will not drop the ball.
- DefenseThe Titans rank ninth on defense overall and seventh against the pass, but they will have to play their best game of the year to control Manning and the Broncos. Outside linebacker Zach Brown has been a force this year with 72 tackles and 4.0 sacks. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has the kind of strength and explosion to destroy the pocket. He leads the Titans with 8.0 sacks.The Broncos seem quite vulnerable on defense since they rank 26th overall, but they are willing to give up yards because they score a lot and they try not to give up touchdowns. Linebacker Danny Trevathan plays with exceptional effort and leads the Broncos with 98 tackles and he also has 11 passes defensed. Defensive end Shaun Phillips has done a stellar job and has 9.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Titans hold their own on punt and kickoff coverage and they rarely give up a big play. Darius Reynaud has good speed as a return specialist, but his long this year is 40 yards. Rob Bironas is one of the game’s most dependable kickers, having made 18-of-21 FG attempts.The Broncos find ways to get the edge on their opponents with their special-teams play. While they gave up a kickoff return for a score in Week 13 against the Chiefs, Trindon Holliday has returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this year. Matt Prater has made 15-of-15 FG attempts.
The Broncos can earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by sweeping their last four games. Each of those games are winnable, but this may be the most challenging of the four. If the Broncos don’t have any mental lapses, they should handle the Titans without a big problem. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor