|NFL Week 9: Panthers at Titans Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007 03:49|
Where's the Offense?
The Tennessee Titans have been winning this season. It just hasn't been very a pretty process lately.
The Titans look to improve their anemic offense and keep rolling Sunday when they host the Carolina Panthers.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Tennessee -4 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 35.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee -4 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Tennessee (5-2) is off to its best start since opening 9-2 in 2003, the last season it reached the playoffs. The Titans started 0-5 last year before rallying to win six of their last seven games and finish 8-8.
While the team seems to have carried over its momentum from the second half of last season, its offense has stagnated. The Titans have scored just five offensive touchdowns over the past four games, but have won three, thanks to 13 field goals on 14 chances from Rob Bironas.
Tennessee's passing game has been the biggest culprit. The Titans haven't scored a touchdown through the air since Sept. 24 in a 31-14 win at New Orleans and rank 29th in the NFL with 156.7 passing yards per game.
Vince Young is coming off his worst game as a starter, having completed only six of 14 passes for 42 yards in Sunday's 13-9 win over Oakland. The 2006 NFL offensive rookie of the year started after sitting out the previous week with a strained right quadriceps muscle.
Tennessee's defense came through a week after giving up 29 fourth-quarter points in a 38-36 victory at Houston, getting five sacks and two turnovers against the Raiders.
"We want wins," defensive end Antwan Odom said. "We want W's. That's all we care about. This win was a team effort. The defense won't play every game like we did (Sunday), so the offense has to step it up. We win and lose as a team. We have to get after everybody we play."
Tennessee has been much better at running the ball than throwing it, gaining 150.9 yards per game on the ground, good for third in the league. LenDale White rushed for a career-best 133 yards on 25 carries against the Raiders.
Still, the Titans have reached the end zone in just 32.1 percent of their red-zone opportunities, ranking them 27th in the NFL. Their 13 touchdowns overall tie them for 24th in the league.
"When you run the football for nearly 200 yards against a defense like theirs that is playing eight- or nine-man fronts, and they say `No you can't,' and you say `Yes, I can,' and you do it, that is how you win football games," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We're not happy with the lack of points and the lack of touchdowns, but we definitely had some opportunities (Sunday) and couldn't take advantage of them."
Young has thrown just three touchdown passes this season and six interceptions. He could have a chance to improve his numbers against the Panthers, who have just five interceptions and are allowing 313.9 passing yards a game, fifth most in the NFC.
Carolina (4-3) has its own issues in the passing game thanks to a string of injuries at quarterback. Vinny Testaverde, who led the Panthers to a 25-10 win at Arizona on Oct. 14 four days after signing with them, aggravated an Achilles' tendon injury in Sunday's 31-7 loss to Indianapolis and was replaced by David Carr.
Carr took over as the No. 1 QB after Jake Delhomme was lost for the season in Week 3 with a right elbow injury that required ligament replacement surgery, but he's been dealing with compression fractures in his lower back. Saying he was only at 80 percent, Carr threw for 103 yards against the Colts, but the Panthers were outscored 21-0 in the second half.
The 43-year-old Testaverde missed practice Wednesday, making Carr the front-runner to start Sunday. Carr, acquired in an offseason trade with Houston, is 2-8 against the Titans.
"He was well enough to play last week. There aren't a lot of players out there that are 100 percent at this stage of the season," coach John Fox said of Carr. "He looked sharp in practice today. He had a good day of preparation both in the classroom and out on the field."
Receiver Steve Smith was held to two catches for 18 yards last week, all on Carolina's first drive, and was seen screaming at Carr on the sidelines late in the game.
Smith had 2,729 receiving yards and 20 touchdown catches in his previous two seasons, but has been held to 50 or fewer receiving yards in four games this year.
"I'm trying to get him the football. And he's not necessarily concerned about himself getting the football," Carr said. "He just wants our team to be better. I just went up to him and said, 'If there's anything I can do that you see from the wide receiver position that can make us a better team, then let me know.'
"We just got talking because we're too old to keep secrets from each other. And he's not like that at all. He'll tell you straight up."
DeShaun Foster ran for just 62 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries Sunday, and will be up against the NFL's stingiest run defense this week. Tennessee is allowing 64.3 rushing yards per game.
The Panthers fell to 0-3 at home last week but are undefeated on the road.
Carolina and the Tennessee franchise are meeting for just the third time and first since 2003. Carolina beat the Houston Oilers 31-6 on the road in 1996 but lost 37-17 at home to the Titans in 2003.
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