Knowing Your Opponent: Tennessee Titans

The 49ers travel to Tennessee to take on the 3-3 Titans Sunday, who present a tough test on the road. Starting quarterback Jake Locker's status might be in doubt, but their stout defense isn't. Inside we break down the Titans in our latest edition of Knowing Your Opponent.

Titans' Statistics Through Week 6

Offense (rank)

Points per game: 21.3 (#21)

Yards per game: 302.2 (#29)

Passing Yards (per game): 193.8 (#29)

Rushing Yards (per game): 108.3 (#17)

3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 38.20 percent (#12)

Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): 44.4 percent (#29)

Defense (rank)

Points per game: 19.2 (#8)

Yards per game: 335 (#10)

Passing yards (per game): 223.8 (#10)

Rushing Yards (per game): 111.2 (#19)

Opponents 3rd-Down Conversion Rate: 29.87 percent (#3)

Opponents Red Zone Scoring Rate (TDs): 55.56 (#15)

AFC South Standings

Colts (4-2)

Titans (3-3)

Texans (2-4)

Jaguars (0-6)

Head Coach: Mike Munchak (third season), 18-20 record

Questions at Quarterback

As the week has gone by, the likelihood of starting quarterback Jake Locker playing Sunday has increased.

Locker suffered knee and hip injuries in Week 4's 38-13 win over the New York Jets. His original prognosis was to miss 4-6 weeks, but his status has been elevated to questionable after being medically cleared to participate in practice this week.

The 49ers have spent the week preparing for both Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick, just in case Locker gets the go ahead Sunday after practicing for three days this week.

Locker was having an outstanding season prior to his injuries, completing over 62 percent of his passes while throwing for six touchdowns and no interceptions. The Titans were 3-1 in his starts, but are 0-2 since Fitzpatrick took over.

The Titans played the Seattle Seahawks reasonably well Sunday, but were unable to come out on the winning side falling 20-13. Fitzpatrick threw a pair of interceptions, but easily could have thrown two more that were dropped by Seahawks defenders in the second and third quarters.

Fitzpatrick finished with 171 yards completing 17 of 29 throws for a 46.8 QB rating. His favorite target was Kendall Wright, who caught five balls for 69 yards.

"We are not really leaning any way, it's just Jake has done well," Mike Munchak told reporters Friday. "He has been able to do everything we wanted him to do, so now we need to spend some time with him, talk as an offense, and decide what we think is best for Sunday."

A Talented Defense

Tennessee's defense has been one of the best in the league on third-down, which will be a key factor in Sunday's game.

There's talent at each level of the defense. Up front, tackle Jurrell Casey was described by 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman as one of the best interior lineman his offense will face all season.

Corner Alterraun Verner is also having an outstanding year, allowing just 11 receptions on 32 targets in coverage. Quarterbacks have a 15.4 rating when throwing his way, thanks to four interceptions that tie him for the league lead.

The team's leading tackler is strong safety Bernard Pollard, who has played all but three of the defense's snaps so far. San Francisco is familiar with Pollard's work with the Ravens and exploited him in coverage in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers completed four of five passes against him, including a two to Vernon Davis, totaling 87 yards.

Tennessee's weakness through six games has been stopping the run. They allowed 172 yards on the ground to Houston in Week 2's overtime loss and 151 last week in Seattle. In order to be successful on Sunday, they will have to find a way to limit Frank Gore while preventing Davis from beating them over the top.

The Johnson Conundrum

In 2009 and 2010, Chris Johnson was the biggest home run threat in the NFL. But now CJ2K is heading a rushing attack that that's ranked 17th and averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

Johnson held out until inking a four-year extension just 10 days before the start of the 2011 season, signing for $53.5 million including $30 million in guarantees. But after scoring 25 rushing touchdowns in the previous two seasons, Johnson has just 10 since and is looking for his first of 2013. He's averaged just 3.1 yards per attempt this year, a career-low by nearly a full yard.

Johnson hasn't rushed for 100 yards since Dec. 17 and received just 12 carries for 33 yards against the Seahawks. Regardless, Johnson's big-play ability remains a threat to San Francisco's defense that's allowed 112.8 rush yards per game.

San Francisco struggled against Andre Ellington - a player of a similar skill set to Johnson - allowing 8.0 yards per carry in last week's 32-20 win over Arizona.

The Titans are hoping to get improved play from their offensive line that has struggled to create holes for their running backs, including Shonn Greene, who is expected to make his return after injuring his knee in Week 1's 16-9 win over the Steelers.

Greene signed a three-year, $10 million deal in the offseason after spending four years with the New York Jets. He was brought in to be a physical complement to Johnson to be used in short-yardage and goal line situations.

*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*


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