Nashville finds itself in an unfamiliar position at the center of the football universe on Monday night, when the Titans host the Jets. Here are some storylines to watch for the game.
Can Britt break out?
Titans receiver Kenny Britt, when healthy and out of trouble, is one of the NFL’s best receivers. Britt has been slowed this year after recovering from off-season knee surgery, but an eight-catch, 143-yard game last week gave Titans fans a lot to be excited about.
But that came against the Colts, who rank 20th in the NFL against the pass. The Jets rank No. 2 in the NFL (196 yards per game) in defending through the air, and Britt will likely be covered by Antonio Cromartie. Since Darrelle Revis went down in Week 3 and Cromartie became the Jets’ top corner, nobody has broken 100 yards against him yet. Britt’s also playing with an ankle injury, which won’t help.
Should Britt be able to do it, we’ll officially know he’s back.
Can Tennessee stop the run?
In this day of historic passing numbers, it’s awfully hard to keep a job as a starting quarterback in the NFL when you’ve thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, but the Jets still feel that Mark Sanchez (13 interceptions, 12 TDs) gives them the best chance to win. Sanchez’s yardage totals from the last five weeks are 124, 178, 301, 97 and 111. I guess it’s no wonder the Jets ran the ball 42 times last week, and 43 the week before.
However, the Jets aren’t a great running team either, however. Starting running back Shonn Greene has 883 yards on the season, but just a 3.8 yard-per-attempt average. The Jets seem to like second-year man Bilal Powell about as much, and he’s been slightly more productive, but he’s also playing with a toe injury.
The Titans know what’s coming; whether they can stop it will have much to say about how who wins.
Can Chris Johnson bounce back?
After back-to-back 100-yard games against the Bears and Dolphins in early November (it would have been four straight had he gained one more yard against the Colts on Oct. 28), Titans running back Chris Johnson looked like his old self. Since then, he’s averaged 3.8, 3.9 and 2.3 yards per carry the last two weeks.
A lot of Johnson’s struggle certainly is due to an offensive line that’s beaten-up beyond belief. Starting right tackle David Stewart is done for the year with a broken leg, as he became the third Titan lineman done for the year with injury. But the Titans have a chance to move the ball on the ground anyway, since only three teams have given up more yards per game against the run than the Jets’ 136.5 this season.
When Johnson’s at his best, he’s quick to the edge on the outside, and slices through creases between the tackles on the way to big gains when the Titans run him inside. The Jets’ front seven doesn’t have a reputation for speed, so if Johnson’s healthy and on his game, there should be opportunities for big plays.
Will the fans show up?
Few things excite fans more than playing on the big stage of Monday Night Football. It’s also the South, where Jets’ backup quarterback Tim Tebow is hugely popular. The weather won’t be bad to boot, so there are reasons to think there will be good attendance numbers.
On the other hand, the Titans are going nowhere, and excitement over the team may be at an all-time low since Bud Adams relocated the franchise from Houston. Sad to say, a good bit of the Titans crowd this year has been from other teams’ fans. The Jets are a team with just an average following, and at 6-7 it’s doubtful they’ll travel in numbers like the Steelers or Bears.
With Christmas just a week away, high-definition television making watching from home more popular by the year, and the ever-popular John Gruden calling the shots as he sees them from the broadcast booth, there’s a chance we could see a lot of empty seats in the stadium tonight.