This game offers several interesting storylines, such as the matchup between a pair of wide receivers drafted in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft, who hasn’t played much. And will the offense look better against a team with only 13 sacks in eight games this year?
We spoke with Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles
Scott Schulze: From 2010 to 2015 the Titans went 33-63 under Jeff Fisher, Mike Munchak, and Ken Whisenhunt. They seem to be turning the corner with Mike Mularkey, going 13-10 over the past two seasons. Do fans see this team taking that next step under Mularkey, and if so, why?
Jimmy Morris: The fanbase is still pretty split on Mike Mularkey. There is a section that hates him and thinks he is wasting Marcus Mariota. They want the Titans to spread it out and throw the ball 45 times a game. They won't be happy until they see that....which they never will.
The other section thinks that he has done a good job with the situation he inherited. The Titans are competitive week in and week out and that his something that wasn't the case for a very long time.
I don't think there will be a consensus on Mularkey until this team either makes a deep playoff run or wins the Super Bowl.
SS: To an outsider, looking at an offense with Delanie Walker and Eric Decker, along with Rishard Matthews and top-10 pick Corey Davis, the expectation is that Marcus Mariota would have more than six touchdowns thru seven games. His passer rating is much lower this year than in the previous two seasons, and his touchdown rate is about half of what it’s been the past two years. Has Mariota regressed, or are there other factors which are playing in to his passing numbers not being as good as might be expected?
JM: There are other factors involved here. He missed the second half of the Week 4 loss to the Texans and the game against the Dolphins in Week 5 due to a hamstring injury. He came back to play in Week 6 and Week 7 but could barely move in those games. While he does throw extremely well from the pocket, limiting his mobility caps a lot of what makes his game so special. He is finally healthy after the Week 8 bye.
You also have to take into consideration that Eric Decker missed the majority of training camp with an ankle injury and only played in one preseason game. He and Mariota didn't get that time to develop their chemistry. Corey Davis also missed the majority of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury.
He came back to play in Week 1 but was injured in the first half of Week 2. He didn't play again until last week. Not having Davis on the field obviously hurts the offense because they don't have Davis out there, but it also forced Decker to play on the outside. That isn't the strength of his game anymore.
All of that to say you will see Mariota have much better numbers in the second half of the season.
SS: Speaking of Corey Davis, entering the 2017 NFL Draft, many Bengals fans expected the Bengals to take a wide receiver, and were generally split on Mike Williams and Corey Davis. Both of them went off the board before the Bengals picked at #9, and the Bengals opted for John Ross. Granted, injuries have limited his time on the field. But from what fans have seen, does Davis look like he has the potential to be a stud wide receiver?
JM: Watch this. Yeah, he has the potential to be a stud receiver. He was getting rave reviews in camp before the injured the hamstring. He got 9 targets in his first NFL game and had 6 catches for 69 yards. This was his first NFL catch. We loved him in the draft process and are so very excited to see what he can do in the second half of the season.
SS: The Titans are near the bottom of the league with only 13 sacks thru 8 games played. For a defense with Derrick Morgan, Jurrell Casey, and Brian Orakpo, I would not have guessed them to be so low. What has been the primary reason for the lack of sacks? And should Bengals fans look forward to watching a game where Andy Dalton actually has time to throw, behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines?
JM: This is an excellent question. We were all worried about the secondary heading into the season, but the pass rush has been a far bigger issue to this point. It doesn't seem like anyone has really been able to figure out why. Like you said, they have some talented guys up front that should be able to get home. It just hasn't happened for them much this year.
I don't think Dick LeBeau will allow Andy Dalton to have a ton of time back there. The Titans were getting carved up by Jacoby Brissett in the first half on Monday night a couple of weeks ago. LeBeau made some tweeks at halftime and dialed up a ton of blitzes in the second half. My guess is that he will do something similar if they aren't getting pressure early in this one.
SS: Who wins this week, and why?
JM: I think the Titans win an ugly game. There offense is able to do just enough against a tough Bengals defense to pull out a 23-17 win.