NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Here’s a look at six things to watch:
Run the Ball
Titans running back Derrick Henry is on pace to finish with a career-high in rushing yards. During the season’s first eight games, he’s been the most consistent player on offense. In the second half of the season, Henry wants to do more – and the Titans need him to, starting on Sunday vs the Panthers. The Panthers are ranked 27th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 135.1 yards per game. Last week, the 49ers racked up 232 yards on the ground vs Carolina. The Titans need to be able to run the ball with success on Sunday.
Slow Down McCaffrey
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers. In seven games, McCaffrey has 735 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, along with 39 catches for 343 yards and two scores. It’s impossible to shut the elusive McCaffrey down, but containing him is key. The Titans defense needs to avoid giving up big plays to a guy who’s known for making them in so many different ways.
In Ryan Tannehill's first two starts, the opposing team’s sack attack has been slowed down. The new Titans starting quarterback has been sacked just five times in the past two games after seeing Marcus Mariota sacked 25 times in his six starts. The Titans offensive line will be challenged on Sunday – the Panthers have 30 sacks in seven games, and they’re ranked second in the NFL with sacks per play. DE Mario Addison (6.5) and OLB Brian Burns (4.5) lead the Panthers.
More to WRs?
In Tannehill’s first start, Titans receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown had six catches each as the offense took flight in a win over the Chargers. Then last week, the Titans leaned more on their tight ends, as Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser made plays against the Buccaneers. On Sunday, the Titans will face the NFL’s fifth-ranked pass defense in the Panthers, so there’s a challenge. Tannehill’s ability to get the ball out and into the hands of his wideouts downfield could open things up for the entire offense.
Red Zone Success
The Titans are 6-of-6 in the red zone in back-to-back weeks, scoring touchdowns on six consecutive chances inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Their recent success has vaulted the team into a tie for third place in the NFL for inside-the-20 efficiency. On the season, the Titans have score 14 touchdowns on their 21 trips in the red zone. On the road against a team that’s scored 27 points or more in four of its seven games, including three 34-point plus games, the Titans are going to need to score points with touchdowns, not field goals.
Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has been mostly solid since replacing Cam Newton, and he’ll be back in the saddle on Sunday. The 49ers jumped ahead of Carolina last week, however, and they made Allen look a little shaky, forcing him into three interceptions. The Titans need to find a way to get in the backfield to force Allen into mistakes, or at the least into throwing the ball away. The Titans are a plus-seven in the takeaway/giveaway column after forcing four turnovers last week, and they’ll need to keep it going.
Former Titans wide receiver Eddie Berlin scores on a 50-yard pass from Billy Volek on a fake punt in Tennessee's 37-17 victory at Carolina on Oct. 19, 2003.