The Titans now have their bye week behind them now and a new toy on offense in Randy Moss. Tennessee (5-3) now takes on a tough Miami Dolphins (4-4) team. Miami, as their record indicates has had an up and down year. They have won all their games on the road and loss all at home, which bolds well for the Titans. Miami’s losses have come against solid teams including three division leaders in New England, Pittsburgh, and the New York Jets. Miami also benched starter Chad Henne in favor of veteran and former Moss teammate Chad Pennington.
Vince Young is expected to be able to start and will have his chances against the Dolphins. Miami has given up nine plays of 25 yards or more through the air in the past four weeks, something Moss could help exploit. The Titans’ Young is the AFC’s highest-rated passer at 103.1 and doesn’t have a turnover in his last five games.The Dolphins on the other hand have a minus-eight turnover ratio in losses and are plus-one in wins. That is one of the reasons Miami is turning back to Pennington as Henne has already thrown 10 interceptions. Henne’s last game versus the Titans, he threw 3 interceptions in a 27-24 Titans win back on Dec 20 of last year. Miami also addressed their secondary releasing former first round pick Jason Allen and adding veteran cornerback Al Harris to bolster that unit.
Now lets breakdown the keys to the game for the Titans:
1. The Moss effect – Former Minnesota coach Mike Tice had a formula for getting Moss the ball. 40% of all passes were to go to Moss. I doubt that will be the case here in Tennessee but its all but certain that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger will call special plays for the former all-pro. Moss has 10 touchdowns in 10 meetings with the Dolphins.The Titans can utilize Moss in a variety of ways including in motion, on the outside, play-actions and as a decoy. His mere presence will mean no more eight in the box defensive formations because teams respect Moss’s abilities. It will take time for the Titans to work Moss into the system but once he gets the playbook down, you will see his explosive capabilities. Even without Moss knowing the system yet, he still will have an impact for Tennessee this game.
2. Pressure Pennington and Protect Vince– The Titans look to get pressure on Chad Pennington. The Titans lead the league with 3.3 sacks a game. Miami has a good offensive line only allowing 15 sacks this year. They have all-pro Jake Long anchoring the line. If they Titans can find a way to apply heat to Pennington it should set up some turnovers. Pennington has never been mistaken as a mobile QB and he has sat out this entire year so I look for the Titans to be able to get to him a few times in the game. At that same token the Titans have to protect Vince Young. Young has been in and out of the lineup because of various injuries to his ankle, knee and Achilles. To be fair the two most recent injuries Young suffered was not at the hands of the offensive line as Young was out of the pocket on one and was at the bottom of a scrum for the ball on the other. Cam Wake has been a revelation this year for the Dolphins and has already racked 8.5 sacks in eight games this year.The Dolphins are ranked 10th in the league with 21 sacks and the Titans are 4th with 26. Bottom line, these are two teams who get to the QB. Who ever protects the QB the best this game will have the advantage.
3.Can CJ get finally break loose – Chris Johnson comes into this game as the 5th leading rusher in the NFL with his 721 yards. His stats are not bad this year but compared to his NFL offensive player of the year campaign of last year, they are off. It won’t be easy breaking the big one on the Dolphins either. They’ve allowed two runs of 20 yards or more – third fewest in the league. The Moss effect will lead to fewer men in the box as I stated earlier. I find it very intriguing to see how teams will play the Titans now with Moss. It could be a pick you poison team with Johnson and Moss. I look for Johnson to break for one his signature runs this game. He will have his opportunities as teams will have to focus on who they want to stop. Moss and the passing game will also get favorable circumstances as well after Johnson loosens up the Dolphins D.
Game summary: The Titans have the edge in most departments in this game. They will look to get Moss going early and often. The defense should be able to apply pressure to Pennington and force turnovers. Chris Johnson will get opportunities he didn’t have in the past as Moss opens the field and running lanes for him. Watch out for Dolphins offensive weapons Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Brandon Marshall as they account for most of the Dolphins offense.
Game notes and streaks: Tennessee ranks second in league with 19 takeaways,The Titans have the NFL’s stingiest red-zone defense with opponents only being successful 29 percent, In three games against Tennessee, Chad Pennington has thrown for 814 yards with a QB rating of 105.0, The Dolphins are 0-3 at home and have lost five consecutive home games since last year, Even with their .500 record, Miami has been outscored by 32 points, The Dolphins offense has scored only 11 touchdowns, which ties for second-worst in league, Ronnie Brown has played 13 consecutive games since his most recent 100-yard game, and Miami’s wildcat offense hasn’t had much success this year only gaining 30 yards in 20 snaps this season.