|NFL Week 12: Titans at Bengals Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 02:29|
Looking to Rebound
Entering Week 10, the Tennessee Titans were tied for the third-best record in the AFC, thanks in part to one of the league's best defenses. An uncharacteristic inability to stop the run the last two weeks, however, has dropped them to third place in their division.
The Titans (6-4) look to rebound from back-to-back losses Sunday when they visit the struggling Cincinnati Bengals (3-7), who have had defensive problems of their own all season.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee -1 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 47 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee -1 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Tennessee went 6-2 in the first half for its best start since 2003 - the last year the Titans went to the playoffs. Through eight games, they trailed only New England and Indianapolis in the AFC, with Pittsburgh having an identical record.
During their strong start, the Titans didn't give up more than 99 rushing yards in a game, holding opponents to an average of 66.0 yards on the ground.
Lately, however, they haven't been able to stop the run, giving up 166 rushing yards in each of their back-to-back losses, including a 34-20 defeat at Denver on Monday night.
"We have to make tackles," coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's something that's been a problem for us which was not a problem for us earlier in the year."
That loss dropped Tennessee to third place in the competitive AFC South, two games behind Indianapolis and one behind Jacksonville. Houston is just one game back of Tennessee, which is tied with Cleveland for the conference's last wild-card spot.
Despite their recent struggles, the Titans aren't panicking.
"They're just little things we have to tighten up," running back LenDale White said. "No need to fear. We're 6-4 and still in it, very much in it. We just have to buckle down and do the little things better."
The absence of star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has coincided with Tennessee's dramatic defensive decline. Haynesworth, tied for the team lead with five sacks, has missed the last two games with a sore right hamstring. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
Without Haynesworth, the Titans gave up 359 total yards - the most against them since Week 2 versus Indianapolis - in Monday's loss. Denver also came within two points of the most scored against Tennessee this season.
After limiting opponents to 15.5 points per game in the first half of the season, the Titans have allowed 31.0 in their last two games.
Monday's defensive struggles overshadowed a strong showing by Vince Young, who set a career high in passing yards for the second consecutive game with 305. He added 74 yards on the ground.
After a performance like that, the last thing the Titans needed was another injury scare from their quarterback, but Young bruised his right quadriceps in the game. It's the same muscle that Young strained earlier this season, which forced him to miss Tennessee's win at Houston on Oct. 21.
Fisher said Tuesday that the injury might limit Young in practice this week, but shouldn't be an issue Sunday.
"He came back and worked it out," Fisher said. "It was the same leg, but it was more of a contusion than it was a strain."
Bothered by the injury or not, Young seems determined to help his team avoid a third straight loss.
"We got to shut up our mouth and just play the game," he said. "That's it."
Young's excellent play could continue against the Bengals (3-7), owners of one of the worst defenses in the NFL. They're allowing 369.6 total yards and 28.6 points per game - both near the bottom of the league.
The Bengals may have expected their high-powered offense to make up for their defensive deficiencies, but that talented group hasn't done enough to keep the team from falling into last place in the AFC North. The Bengals are 11-15 since the 2005 season, when they won the division with an 11-5 record.
"Guys have been built up to think they were up to this level of player," coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. "Well, they're finding out that maybe you're not. Maybe you need to get back to work and figure out a way to get it done, and rely on the rest of the football team to help you."
The Cincinnati defense allowed a season-low 247 yards Sunday, but the Bengals couldn't overcome five turnovers in a 35-27 loss to Arizona. Carson Palmer completed 37 of 52 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw a career-high four interceptions, including two that were returned for scores.
"It feels terrible, horrible," said Palmer, who had just two interceptions in the previous four games. "I felt like I let the team and the coaches and the organization and the fans down. When you give up four interceptions and 14 points, it makes it almost impossible to win."
Palmer was 27-of-33 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to lead the Bengals to a 31-23 victory in the teams' last meeting Oct. 16, 2005.
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