The Titans began a four game homestand three weeks ago when they hosted Indianapolis and promptly lost to the Colts in a dramatic fourth quarter collapse. Following the bye week the Titans dropped a heartbreaking 14-13 contest, again failing to hold a fourth quarter lead in losing to Buffalo.
There are still two games remaining on this home stand as Miami visits this week with the Atlanta Falcons scheduled to visit next week. Atlanta lost for the first time this season on Thursday night when they fell to the New Orleans Saints 31-21. It's safe to say that the Falcons will be in a fowl mood when they arrive in Nashville and the Titans will face a tough challenge in that match-up.
The Titans cannot afford to go winless in a four game home stretch, having already lost two of the four and facing the best of the four teams in the final game. That makes Miami a must win situation for Tennessee.
What will it take for the Titans to win on Sunday?
Obviously the Titans must score more points, but Miami is in a must win situation of their own. Dan Campbell has taken over as the interim head coach replacing Joe Philbin who was fired two weeks ago with the teams struggling to a 1-4 start.
Campbell is a former NFL tight end and has said publicly since his appointment that he wants the Titans to be a more physical team. He has gone back to more physical one-on-one type drills during last week's bye and that new sense of physicality raises some questions for the Titans.
The Dolphins have a talented roster and while they have struggled to run the football this season, based on Campbell's calls for a tougher team it suggests that the fish will try to improve that running game this week.
Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan shared the teams mindset about this game on Thursday.
"We're approaching this like the first game of the season because with the coaching change, we really don't know for sure what they will try to do offensively," said Morgan.
While the Dolphins might want to be more physical, it will be impossible to reinvent their offense in two weeks. While they might run more, the offense will remain the same, with some new wrikles of course
While both teams are on a three game losing skid, the Dolphins should get a jolt of emotions from the coaching change. Teams who have in-season coaching changes almost always play with a new determination and ferocity.
To win Sunday the Titans must start fast and get an early lead to take the energy away from Miami. If they struggle offensively and hold a slim lead or trail, the confidence level for the Dolphins will soar and the second half will be a battle that the Titans might not be ready to win.
The Dolphins have allowed 160.8 yards per game rushing and 245.5 yards per game passing, so the Titans have offensive options. However, the Titans have struggled at times to run the football themselves. It is no sure thing that they can approach the 160 yard average Miami allows.
The Titans pass defense, lead by cornerback Brent Grimes allowed seven receiving touchdowns in 2014, seventh-worst among cornerbacks, but has yet to allow a touchdown this year. Fellow cornerback Brice McCain is especially tough when he is in slot coverage. He allows just one reception for every 21 coverage snaps he is in, 5th among cornerbacks.
Grimes and McCain can make things tough on offenses and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota must be patient and work the middle of the field early again this week to help move the football.
The Dolphins front seven have produced just one quarterback sack all season, but Ndamukong Suh said publicly this week that he has not played up to his ability and is looking to change that this week, He will be a tough test for the Titans offensive line. The return of guard Chance Warmack to the lineup should help in blocking Suh, though Warmack might not be one-hundred percent going into the match-up.
With Suh and Cameron Wake on the left side of the Miami defense, the Titans might choose to run to their left behind tackle Taylor Lewan and Byron Bell. They could also choose to use their tight ends to help add extra blockers if they run to the right.
So who will win?
The Titans have talked all week about finishing the game, but the Dolphins will be an emotionally charged opponent. It's tough for me to want to take the Titans in this one,as they have failed twice in a row to finish.
The last two weeks, we have predicted the Colts and Bills to both get wins against the Titans. The Titans have made both games closer than expected, but ultimately failed to finish games they had a true chance to win. They have a true chance to win this game, but can they finish the deal this time.
FRIDAY PREDICTION: TITANS 27 MIAMI 14
Why that final score? The Miami offense has struggled to score points and the Titans defense has been good enough to win.
That trend continues this week as the Dolphins lack of running game helps the Titans once again hold a time of possession advantage. I believe the Titans offense can produce points this week and will get a much needed win.
I've been wrong before and could be wrong now, as the Titans have a history of disappointing us all. If they disappoint again, it could mean this will turn into another very long season.
This Titans team is different than a year ago, it's time for them to prove it.