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Nov
21
2008

Man-Mountains, The Undefeated and Road Warriors

It's Clash of the Titans Sunday in Tennessee.

Figuratively and literally.  Both teams are in first place and both teams carry or carried the "Titans" name. 

OK, that was a pretty weak analogy, but the game is still a big one.  The Jets are flying high after their Thursday night victory in New England and the Titans, well, they've been rolling the entire season, winning their first ten games out of the block this year.

And both squads feature monsters on the defensive front.

In the Green corner, you have Kris Jenkins, the 360-pound nose tackle who is putting together a Pro Bowl season.  And in the Powder Blue and Navy Blue corner (quick side note: I don't know who came up with the Titans uniform and color scheme, but I don't care for it.  In fact, those unis are probably the worst in the league), stands Albert Haynesworth, a 6-6, 320-pound disruptive force.

Haynesworth's stats are impressive enough -- 7 sacks, 54 tackles and 15 quarterback pressures -- but, just like Jenkins, his impact goes well beyond the numbers.  He makes everyone around him better and that's the main reason why the Titan defense is the stingiest in the league, surrendering a league-best 13 points a game.

Both offensive lines will have their hands full in this one.  Centers Nick Mangold and his Titan counterpart Kevin Mawae will carry the bulk of the responsibility to try and nullify the man-mountains, but both should receive help from their guards, running backs, tight ends and anyone else wearing a helmet.

The Jets boast the league's fourth-best rush defense and Tennessee isn't far behind at No. 10.  Does that mean that the running game will sputter for both teams?  Maybe.  But Thomas Jones leads the AFC in rushing with 854 yards and Titans rookie Chris Johnson ranks second with 787.  Still, if both squads are forced to take to the air, the Jets may have a slight advantage.

That's because the Titans will be thin at corner come Sunday.  Eric King and Reynaldo Hill are out and starter Nick Harper is listed as doubtful with a foot injury.  That leaves just starter Cortland Finnegan.  Titans coach Jeff Fisher said the team could move some of their safeties to corner and a roster move could be made before the game to add more depth.  Either way, that's not a situation any team wants to be in.  If the Jets can protect Brett Favre, they stand a great chance of exploiting a depleted secondary.

The Jets have had their own problems in the defensive backfield.  Matt Cassel went to town to the tune of 400 yards passing last week and the Green and White are ranked 28th in the league in pass defense.  The Titans don't boast a high-powered aerial attack, but quarterback Kerry Collins has barely been touched in 2008.  Collins has been sacked only five times this season.  On the flip side, the Jets have dropped the quarterback 34 times this season, third-best in the league.  The Titans biggest threat in the passing game is tight end Bo Scaife, who has 44 receptions, 450 yards and two touchdowns.  And the Jets have been torched by tight ends this season.

The Titans are undefeated coming into this one (in case you weren't aware), but it doesn't seem to matter to the Jets.  I don't think the team is concerned with handing Tennessee their first loss of the season as much as they are focused on winning the game.  Maybe that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but hang with me on this.  In the latest issue of Jets Confidential (which, again, is a great source for all things Jets), Leon Washington had this to say after last week's win in New England:

"The biggest thing I see about this team is when we go into a game, we don't think we can win, we don't believe we can win.  You got a sense [Thursday night] before the game that we knew we were going to win the game.  That goes a long way."

The Jets had a chance last season to hand the 13-0 Patriots their first loss of the season and came up short.  That was a big deal last year since the Jets were terrible, but I think this team isn't concerned with the Titans record.  They are just another team in their way.

This will be the third straight season the Jets hook up against the Titans.  It's also the third straight year that the game will be played in the Volunteer State.  What's the story?  Anyway, the Jets have played well on the road lately (wins at Buffalo and New England) and are undefeated if you take out their two debacles on the West Coast (San Diego and Oakland).  The Jets bested the Titans in the 2006 season opener and battled but lost last season in Tennessee.  During Eric Mangini's first season in '06, the Jets finished 6-2 on the road and made the playoffs.  They fell a bit short of that mark last season, finishing 1-7 away from home, but a win on Sunday would put them on track to regain their "road warrior" status.  And if you didn't catch it, Bill Simmons had a very thorough breakdown on the slow death of the homefield advantage.  Let's hope that's the case Sunday.

Here's a Titan fan's take on the up-coming contest.

And in case you didn't hear, rookie quarterback Erik Ainge was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's steroids and related substances policy.  Ainge was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 28 with a foot injury.  Not a great homecoming for the fifth-round pick from Tennessee.

The Gotham Green took a huge step with last week's win against the Pats.  It will take another great effort to come out on top in Tennessee.

And I think the guys in green are up to it.
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