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Detroit Lions Week 15 scouting report: The Tennessee Titans are tough, but beatable

The Titans offense is a behemoth, but their struggling defense gives Detroit a chance.

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions’ gauntlet of punishing teams continues this week. Interim head coach Darrell Bevell will have his hands full again, as the Tennessee Titans are one of the better teams in the deeper AFC.

In fact, the more and more you look at this team, the more they resemble last week’s Lions opponent, the Green Bay Packers. I know that sounds ridiculous, because Ryan Tannehill is no Aaron Rodgers, but hear me out. You’ve got a team with an exceptionally balanced offense, but a surprisingly vulnerable defense.

Obviously the status of Matthew Stafford looms large, but if the Lions can keep their offense respectable, I think they have a chance to hang with the Titans. Let me explain in our Week 15 scouting repot.

Tennessee Titans 2020 season thus far (9-4)

Week 1: Defeated Broncos, 16-14
Week 2: Defeated Jaguars, 33-30
Week 3: Defeated Vikings, 31-30
Week 5: Defeated Bills, 42-16
Week 6: Defeated Texans, 42-36 (OT)
Week 7: Loss to Steelers, 24-27
Week 8: Lost to Bengals, 20-31
Week 9: Defeated Bears, 24-17
Week 10: Lost to Colts, 17-34
Week 11: Defeated Ravens, 30-24 (OT)
Week 12: Defeated Colts, 45-26
Week 13: Lost to Browns, 35-41
Week 14: Defeated Jaguars, 31-10

Stats:

  • 4th in points scored (30.0 PPG), 21st in points allowed (25.8 PPG)
  • 13th in DVOA: 3rd on offense, 26th on defense, 29th on special teams

The Titans have been an odd team this year. Though Derrick Henry remains the entire identity of the offense, this defense—led by defensive-minded head coach Mike Vrabel—hasn’t lived up to its normal standard. Take a look at how it compares to last year’s squad that got to the AFC championship game.

2019: 20.7 points per game allowed, 4.0 YPC allowed, 7.3 yards per pass attempt, 90.4 passer rating

2020: 25.8 points per game allowed, 4.3 YPC allowed, 7.0 yards per pass attempt, 94.0 passer rating

Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA numbers, the Titans have especially struggled against the pass, ranking 28th in pass defense, compared to 16th in run defense. One big issue is their lack of a pass rush. They currently have a league-low 14 sacks, and rank 29th in PFF’s pass rushing grade.

Unfortunately, we also have to talk about the Titans offense. There’s a reason offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is in our top five of head coaching candidates. Henry gets all of the attention, but the Titans are actually third in both passing and rushing offense DVOA. Here’s a look at the Titans key players on offense and how they rank compared to the rest of the league.

Ryan Tannehill:

  • 8.0 yards per attempt (6th)
  • 108.0 passer rating (6th)
  • 28 passing touchdowns (6th)
  • 5 INTs (t-third fewest among QBs with 50% of team snaps)

Derrick Henry

  • 1,532 rushing yards (1st)
  • 5.2 YPC (6th)
  • 14 rushing TDs (1st)

A.J. Brown

  • 837 receiving yards (20th)
  • 9 receiving TDs (t-6th)

And that doesn’t include Corey Davis (835 receiving yards).

In essence, this matchup is very much like last week’s game against the Packers. Detroit will be up against an elite offense, but a defense that is vulnerable to allow a lot of points.

That all being said, they aren’t exactly playing their best football right now. They’re only 3-2 in their last five and 4-4 in their last eight. They lost to the Bengals, but they’ve also beaten the Bills, Colts and Ravens.

Key injuries:

IR: DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Adam Humphries, LT Taylor Lewan, OT Ty Sambrailo, LB Jayon Brown
Current injuries: CB Breon Borders, CB Adoree’ Jackson, OG Rodger Saffold

The biggest lost to the Titans roster is left tackle Taylor Lewan, who suffered a torn ACL earlier in the year. His backup, Ty Sambrailo, also landed on IR shortly thereafter, leaving the Titans to start David Quessenberry at left tackle, a veteran who had never started a game in the NFL since being drafted in the sixth round in 2013.

The Titans are also hurting at cornerback, with Breon Borders and Adoree’ Jackson currently battling injuries. However, second-round rookie Kristian Fulton was activated from IR this week, and could very well make his return this week after practicing for the past three weeks.

Losing Jayron Brown in Week 11 was a huge hit to their defense as well. The linebacker has been one of the Titans better players on defense, and was easily their best coverage linebacker.

One other person to keep an eye on is veteran left guard Rodger Saffold, who had to leave Sunday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Saffold has battled injuries all season, making an appearance on almost every injury report this year. He’s still managed to start 12 of 13 games this year, but an ankle injury has been nagging him for weeks.

Biggest strength: Running game

The Titans have run for over 200 yards in four games this year, and over 120 yards in 10 games this year. Derrick Henry currently has 1,532 yards, and if you remember last year, he only gets better in December. This year, his December is off to a similar start, meaning 2,000 yards is absolutely on the table for Henry. With only 468 yards to go, Henry needs to average 156 yards per game in the final three games.

Biggest weakness: Pass rush

The Titans are certainly missing Jadeveon Clowney, as no player has more than 4.5 sacks for them right now. Harold Landry is really Tennessee’s biggest (and only?) threat to rush the passer. He’s notched 40 pressures thus far.

Vegas line for Sunday: Titans -11