Denver Broncos (1-2) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots)
PREDICTION: Titans 24-14
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos are prepared for a bruising stretch with Tennessee, Baltimore and the Jets up next. Denver's offense has been a virtual launching pad, putting up 41.7 passes and 350.0 passing yards per game. QB Kyle Orton has had four different receivers top 95 receiving yards in a game; spreading the field and forcing the Titans to use a safety to cover a receiver should be an effective strategy. The key will be how the Broncos' 3-4 defense manages in slowing down Titans RB Chris Johnson. He had another 100-yard game against the Giants, even though Vince Young attempted just four passes in the first half.
FAST FACTS: Orton has 125 pass attempts through three games; Young has 127 in his past seven games. ... The Titans gave up The Titans gave up 386 passing yards to Eli Manning last week. ... Chris Johnson already has 75 carries in three games, including 32 last week against the New York Giants. Johnson had 358 carries plus 50 receptions a year ago when he ran for 2,006 yards Currently, Johnson is on pace for 400 carries. ... Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd is averaging 24.2 yards per catch on 14 receptions.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Titans' offense to date has been relatively easy to decode: Chris Johnson right. Chris Johnson left. Chris Johnson up the middle.
"He's been chopping, chopping, chopping, chopping, and if you lose your focus for one second, then he makes you pay for it with a 60-yard gain," Denver defensive coordinator Don Martindale said.
The flip side is that the Titans pass offense has been like an eclipse: seldom seen and hard to look at.
"With Tennessee, they've been this way for awhile," safety Brian Dawkins said. "They want to run the ball, stop the run, get in third and short situations, move the chains and grind the clock. That's not just with this group of players. Tennessee has been that way under coach (Jeff) Fisher forever. They haven't changed that."
Last week, in a 29-10 victory over the New York Giants, Tennessee quarterback Vince Young completed just 10 of 16 passes for 118 yards. The week before, he was benched vs. Pittsburgh after a 7-for-10, 66-yard, two- interception performance.
Tennessee's heavy reliance on the running game can lull the defensive backfield to sleep if it's not careful. Young has attempted fewer passes than any other regular NFL QB.
"That statistic could be a little misleading because they have a good running back and their running game has been working for them. So why pass it when it's working for you?" inside linebacker Mario Haggan said.
"Just like the Indianapolis Colts, that pass game is great for them so why run the ball 30 times when it's working for you?
Peyton Manning matched Young's 43 season attempts in last Sunday's Indianapolis win in Denver alone.
Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, though, equated Young's physical talents to Michael Vick, "and we all know how dangerous he's been the last few weeks," with a duel threat to throw and run out of the pocket.
"I'll tell you what: You talk about Vince Young's legs, but watch third and fourth down. He's throwing the ball -- and he's throwing the ball effectively," Martindale said.
The numbers back him up. Young's 108.1 quarterback rating this season on third down trails only Matt Ryan, Vick and Tom Brady. Young is 13 of 18 (72.2 percent) for 138 yards, two TDs and one interception on such plays.
"He throws some pretty good inside, breaking routes," Dawkins said. "They go to those things quite a bit."
Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown continues to stick with his routine of practicing just one day per week and then playing on Sundays.
v Brown underwent an off-season surgery on his knee to help drain fluid from a thigh injury that had seeped into the knee area. He actually cut his regular season short by one game in order to have the surgery.
The healing process was slow, as Brown began training camp on the physically unable to perform list and played in just one preseason game.
Despite the missed time in camp and preseason and now in practice, Brown has started all three games thus far for the Titans.
"I've done played in three games. Ain't nothing gonna change. I'm good," Brown said after sitting out Thursday's practice again.
Brown said he has had to adjust his approach, given that he now has to gather more in the meeting rooms than on the practice field as he prepares to play each week.
"Actually, that's the easy part. That just comes from playing so many games and being around for awhile," Brown said.
Brown was re-signed to a three-year, $17 million extension in the off-season and has blossomed into a solid starter at right defensive tackle for the Titans.
--RT Ryan Harris (ankle) apparently came out of his practice return Wednesday fine and was on the field again Thursday. Barring a setback, Harris is in line to make his first start this season Sunday. He was hurt in the preseason finale Sept. 2
--RB Laurence Maroney started against Indianapolis because he "was better ready to go on first and second down," according to coach Josh McDaniels. That role should continue with Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) likely out again. Maroney finished with 12 carries while sharing time with Correll Buckhalter, who contributed heavily in third-down, two-minute and specific red-zone packages.
--Rookie OL Zane Beadles is likely to lose his starting job when/if Harris returns. Beadles spent training camp at LG but has concentrated on playing outside since. He'll rotate inside once again and likely play a swing role moving forward.
--Rookie center J.D. Walton drew praise from McDaniels on Thursday for his communications skills from the pivot, saying the team hasn't had many issues in terms of identifying assignments or in working combinations with the guards.
--NT Jamal Williams had his usual Thursday off-day to help keep him fresh over the course of the season.
--FB Spencer Larsen (ankle) continues to miss practice with an ankle injury. He's the only official fullback on the roster. Denver used TE Dan Gronkowski last week as the blocking back in the 'I' formation and that should continue. Gronkowski had never played fullback in a game situation until last Sunday.
--CB Alterraun Verner is preparing to make his first start after Jason McCourty broke his forearm last week against the New York Giants. Verner was the Titans' fourth-round pick from UCLA.
--CB Ryan Mouton could be heading for a bigger role as well with Jason McCourty out. Not only is he the lone true cornerback as a backup, but he now will play in the Titans' dime package for the next three to four weeks.
--DE Jacob Ford has not practiced all week as he recovers from a sprained knee suffered in the Pittsburgh game two weeks ago. Ford says he is improving but doesn't know when he will return.
--RB Chris Johnson said he is unconcerned about his heavy workload. Johnson has 75 carries in three games, putting him on pace for 400 carries this season. His 301 yards rushing have him on pace for 1,605 in his follow-up to last year's 2,006-yard rushing season.
--TE Jared Cook has been a forgotten man thus far in the Titans' offense as he has just one reception for five yards through three games. Cook has been touted for two years as a potential big-time weapon, but his opportunities have been few.
--WR Marc Mariani has solidified the return game for the Titans, averaging 10.7 yards per punt return and 24.7 yards per kickoff return.
Broncos Update Community Forums