By Curt Macysyn
The Tennessee Titans (2-10) look like the mirror image of last week’s opponent for the New York Giants (3-9), the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, if rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger can make the start against the New York Giants, then there would be little difference between the Titans and Jaguars, who started rookie Blake Bortles on Sunday.
The Titans will likely be without wide receiver Justin Hunter, who sustained a lacerated spleen in his team’s 45-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday. At this point, it becomes difficult to separate these two teams because both are periliously close to rock bottom. The Giants squandered a 21-point lead in losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Titans made Texans’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Joe Montana in giving up six touchdown passes to the Ivy Leaguer on Sunday.
The Titans handed the keys to the franchise over to rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger in late October against the Houston Texans, and the rookie quarterback from LSU has lost all five games that he started. He was unable to finish last week’s contest against the Texans after being driven to the turf by defensive end J.J. Watt and suffering a shoulder injury. Titans coach Ken Whisenhut believes that Mettenberger will play on Sunday. Mettenberger has fared well in his rookie season, as he has completed 60 percent of his passes (93 for 155) for 1,287 passing yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. The Giants could not get a turnover last week against the erratic Blake Bortles, who broke his streak of nine consecutive games with an interception against the G-men. Mettenberger was a sixth round draft pick of the Titans this year, and he was also a former college teammate of the Giants dynamic rookie, Odell Beckham, Jr.
Another rookie paces the rushing attack for the Titans, as second round draft pick Bishop Sankey has 474 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Titans running game is nothing to write home about, as Sankey averages 3.9 yards per carry, and the team averages 4.0 yards per game. Former New York Jet Shonn Green has 220 yards on the ground, while Dexter McCluster has carried the ball only 35 times this year. The Titans running game is ranked 27th in the NFL. While the Giants have more yards on the ground than the Titans (1,208 to 1,060), the Giants average 3.6 yards per carry.
Delanie Walker is an undersized tight end at 6-0, but he leads the team in receiving with 44 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns, and his receiving yards are the most on the team. Third-year receiver Kendall Wright leads the team with 51 receptions for 633 yards and five touchdowns, and he leads the team in catches and receiving touchdowns. Veteran receiver Nate Washington comes in with 29 catches and two TDs on the year. Overall, the offense is ranked 27th in the league, but as a cautionary note, the Jacksonville Jaguars offense was ranked 31st in the NFL, and we saw how that turned out.
Fortunately for New York this week, there is no chance that the read option will be utilized by Mettenberger, which of course, does not mean that Sankey or Green will not be able to find the edge.
The Titans defense is led by Jason McCourty, brother of Devin, and a Rutgers alumnus. McCourty leads the team with three interceptions from his cornerback position, and he also has 65 tackles, which ranks third on the team. Veteran free safety Michael Griffin has played his entire eight year career with the Titans, and he is the team’s top tackler with 86. Griffin also has two interceptions and three sacks of the season, demonstrating what a versatile performer he is.
Former Denver Bronco linebacker Wesley Woodyard is in his first year in Tennessee, after spending six years in the Mile High City. Woodyard has 76 tackles, 1.5 quarterback sacks and two interceptions on the season. The Titans are eighth in the NFL with 31.0 quarterback sacks, and they are led by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey with five quarterback takedowns.
Statistically, this match-up is between two of the most porous defensive units in the league; the Titans are ranked 30th in the NFL, while the Giants hold down the 29th slot. Overall, the Titans composition seems eerily similar to that of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Giants and Titans all time series is tied 5-5-0. Ironically, Big Blue has never beaten this franchise since it moved to Tennessee in 1997. That year, the G-men lost to the Tennessee Oilers 10-6 before 26,744 fans at the Liberty Bowl on Nov. 9, 1997. After 1997, the team has played in Nashville and was renamed the Titans in 1999. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Titans beat the Giants 29-10 on Sept. 26, 2010 at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
The Houston Oliers lost to the Giants five straight times from 1973 to 1994. The team was an original AFL franchise and began play in 1960; winning the first two AFL championships. The Oilers started play in the NFL in 1970, as part of the AFL-NFL merger.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.