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Fearless Prediction: Titans (1-6) at 49ers (3-4)

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Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Rich Gannon)
SERIES: 12th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series 7-4. Tennessee won 33-22 the last time these two teams met at LP Field in 2005.

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Vince Young displayed poise in his first start of the season last week. Of course, it's easy to lead an offense that rushes for 305 yards. If San Francisco's second-ranked run defense is able to contain RB Chris Johnson, then the 49ers can put Young to the test and force him to make plays with his arm. San Francisco is known as a run-based offense, but outside of three long touchdowns RB Frank Gore has found the sledding tough against a lot of eight-man fronts. With the emergence of rookie WR Michael Crabtree, look for more spread formations to attack the league's worst secondary. FAST FACTS: The Titans have lost their four road games by an average of 22.3 points. ... Gore has three touchdown runs of 60-plus yards this season.

Personnel News

Titans:
  • QB Vince Young was sharp in his first start (15 of 18 for 125 yards and 1 TD), and appears to be much more comfortable in the offense in his second go-around as a starter. The test could come this week in San Francisco, however, as the rushing yards could be harder to come by for Chris Johnson.
  • RB Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing with 824 yards, and has pledged to buy his offensive linemen cars if he finishes with 2,000 yards rushing this season.
  • RT David Stewart left Thursday's practice with a hamstring injury. Stewart was to be evaluated. If he cannot go, rookie Troy Kropog might get the nod.
  • CB Vincent Fuller, back from a forearm injury last week, surfaced on the injury report again Thursday with a groin injury.
  • K Rob Bironas has made 10 straight field goals this season using three different holders during that time.
  • RB Javon Ringer is still not practicing after suffering a back injury last week. He is expected to be out this week.
  • OT Mike Otto, still bothered by a knee injury, is also out of practice and expected to be out this week.
  • DE Jevon Kearse suffered a knee injury in Wednesday's practice and did not practice on Thursday.
  • LB David Thornton has been limited with a hip injury. If he is not full speed by game time, he might lose reps in the nickel package to Stephen Tulloch.
49ers:
  • LB Takeo Spikes did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with a shoulder strain, but the 49ers expect him to be on the field Friday. Spikes had the same practice routine last week and played well against the Indianapolis Colts. He is expected to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
  • S Reggie Smith, who has been out since sustaining a severe groin strain Sept. 27 against the Minnesota Vikings, returned to full practice Thursday for the first time since the injury. He is expected to be available for Sunday's game.
  • DL Kentwan Balmer will likely see his most playing time of the season on Sunday, as the 49ers will be without backup Demetric Evans, who is out three weeks with a shoulder sprain.
  • OT Chris Patrick will suit up for his first game with the 49ers after being signed off the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad two weeks ago. Patrick will serve as the backup at both tackle positions behind starters Adam Snyder and Barry Sims.
  • QB Alex Smith has the same career stats as Titans QB Vince Young with 23 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions. However, Smith's career record is 11-20, while Young is 19-11 as an NFL starter.

Inside The Camps

Titans:
Rod Hood and the Titans are proving to be a good match.
When Hood was released by the Cleveland Browns and then the Chicago Bears on consecutive days during the preseason, it looked somewhat odd that a starting cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals in last year's Super Bowl could fall completely off the NFL radar, and do so virtually overnight.
But the Titans, desperate for veteran cornerback help after injuries to Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper, are quite happy to have Hood on board.
Signed Oct. 15, Hood has been a quick study in the Tennessee defensive scheme, learning enough to be put in the starting lineup last week against Jacksonville and picking off a pass that led to a field goal in the Titans' 30-13 victory, their first after six straight losses.
"I think we're very fortunate to get a guy that's got that type of experience as well, who has played on some good defenses and has been to two Super Bowls," Titans defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson said. "Getting somebody like Hood as our second or third corner, we're in a good place now at corner, and we don't have to put those rookies out there before they're ready."
Hood, who put in extra time during the bye week to get up to speed, said he knew he could still play, but simply needed the opportunity to show that.
"It never had anything to do with talent. I always knew that. It was always about the opportunity, and at that particular time, the opportunity wasn't in my favor," Hood said.
Hood certainly shed few tears over leaving the Browns, even if it meant being out of the league for the first five weeks of the season.
"It had nothing to do with my play at Cleveland. It was one of those things where I really wanted to get out of there, because I didn't like how things were going, how things were being run there," Hood said.
"I'm just a big guy on character and how things are supposed to be played out, and it wasn't a good situation for me. It was to a point where football wasn't even fun for me. It was terrible to me."
The veteran said he'd never seen an organization run like the one in Cleveland, but now, both he and the Titans are happy to have found each other.

49ers:
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is not going change his approach just because two main components of the team's offense have changed.
With quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree added to the mix, the 49ers seem to have more firepower with the passing game. But don't expect Raye to implement a spread offense with regularity.
The 49ers used that formation in a two-minute drill at the end of the first half to produce a touchdown last week against the Indianapolis Colts.
"(If) we were going to take this deal and become a shotgun, wide-open and throw the ball 48 or 52 times a game, then we'd have to do an awful lot of changing," Raye said.
"The quarterback (Smith) has played six quarters, and people are now starting to refer to his history in that offense in college, which is five years removed. ... Going forward, if it is something that will help us, we'll gravitate toward that."
Smith excelled his junior season at Utah in Urban Meyer's spread offense. The 49ers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Upon coming to the NFL, he had to learn the basics — such as how to take a snap under center.
Smith might feel comfortable working in the shotgun, but he realizes the 49ers must also have the threat of a running game to be productive.
"If there's no run threat, then I'd probably rather be in the gun," Smith said. "But it's that balance we have with Frank (Gore) in the backfield and when you're under center. You give a defense multiple things to think about. They have to worry about if it is a run or pass. They have to be thinking about both things and that will help us."
Crabtree has quickly become the 49ers' top wideout. He has 11 receptions for 137 yards in two games. But he is still catching up to learn the basics of the team's offense after his 71-day contract impasse.
"It's difficult because we're still, in certain things, trying to get No. 15 (Crabtree) to line up in the right place," Raye said. "There are more elements to it than just the physical body of the people we have. So there are a lot of things that go into that before we can say, 'We're going to switch gears and go in another direction.'" PREDICTION: 49ers 23-14

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