Bears vs Titans: Five Questions with Titan Sized

Jul 30, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; General view of a Tennessee Titans helmet during training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

To help us prepare for the Bears vs Titans on Sunday, we’ve enlisted the help of our friends at Titan Sized for our weekly Five Questions.

What a better way to wrap up a Holiday weekend than to cozy up to the TV for the Bears vs Titans.  OK, if your heartburn from Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t enough, this game ought to put you over the edge.

The 5-6 Tennessee Titans roll into Soldier Field with things to play for.  They are still in the playoff hunt in a weak AFC South, trailing the Houston Texans by a couple of games.  They have a young, up-and-coming quarterback and an offense with some budding stars.

The Bears, on the other hand, have little left to play for.  It looks like Jay Cutler might be done for the season and as a Chicago Bear.  Since Ryan Pace did not draft a developmental quarterback to groom behind Cutler, the Bears are forced to go with journeyman Matt Barkley.  Besides Cutler’s absence, Alshon Jeffery is serving a four-game suspension for PED’s.  Add to that Zach Miller and Kyle Long’s season-ending injuries and the Bears offense is pretty much a mess.

On the other side of the ball, the Bears are struggling to overcome injuries as well.  Promising first-round rookie Leonard Floyd will miss Sunday after a scary concussion last week.  Jerrell Freeman, the Bears’ leading tackler joins Alshon Jeffery on the sidelines with a PED violation of his own.  The secondary continues to be a reolving door through injuries of their own.  Frankly, the Bears are a hot mess right now.

To get some insight on the Tennessee Titans, we’e enlisted the help of our friend Matias Wodner from our FanSided sister site Titan Sized for our weekly Five Questions post.

Nov 20, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes the ball in the first quarter the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. How would you assess Marcus Mariota in Year 2 of his career? Where has he improved and what are some things he needs to improve upon to take his game to the next level? Is he a franchise QB to lead the Titans back to the playoffs?

He’s an absolute star. I’m not just saying that because I’m biased and love him with all my heart. Football experts and pundits are also starting to see how talented this kid really is. He wasn’t great as a rookie; he was good, but he missed a few too many throws and struggled with turnovers. We saw some of those same tendencies pop up through the first four weeks of the season, and fans really started to panic a bit, wondering whether he really had what it took to be our franchise guy.

But something changed after that four week stretch of mediocrity. I think the Titans coaches got him more comfortable, using his legs more often and letting him improvise within plays. Once that happened, he began hitting the intermediate throws with precise accuracy. And now over the last few weeks, we’ve started to see him hit receivers in stride on deep throws, which he had struggled with in terms of power and touch early in his career.

I still have doubts about whether the current coaching staff is the answer for the future, but there is zero doubt in my mind that Mariota is going to be the guy to get the Titans back to playoffs, sooner than people think.

Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans players huddle at midfield against the Oakland Raiders at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. The Titans actually have the 7th ranked offense in the league, averaging more than 380 yards per game. Why isn’t this pretty good offensive output not translating to better than a 5-6 record?

There’s two reasons for why we’re 5-6 with this good of an offense. 1. It took until Week 5 for the offense to get going like it has been. By that point, the team was already in a 1-3 hole, which has been tough to dig out of. 2. The defense has been really bad. After starting out hot and keeping the Titans in games for the first four to five weeks, the tables have turned and the defense has been the unit letting down the offense.

Since the offensive explosion, the Titans have lost two games in which they scored 26 and 35 points, respectively. Those point totals should be enough to get the job done. And last week, the offense was only able to put up 17 points despite racking up plenty of yardage. Drives just fizzled out, which is something the Titans have struggled with throughout the year. The Titans must do a better job of getting points on long drives. Once they do, the wins will come more frequently.

Since the offensive explosion, the Titans have lost two games in which they scored 26 and 35 points, respectively. Those point totals should be enough to get the job done. And last week, the offense was only able to put up 17 points despite racking up plenty of yardage. Drives just fizzled out, which is something the Titans have struggled with throughout the year. The Titans must do a better job of getting points on long drives. Once they do, the wins will come more frequently.

Nov 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) has a pass broken up by Tennessee Titans cornerback Perrish Cox (20) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Bears will likely be without Jay Cutler. What can Matt Barkley and the Bears offense expect to see from the Titans defense? Who is the one player the Bears need to game plan around?

As mentioned above, the Titans defense is not good at all. Dick LeBeau has struggled to get a lot from his secondary and linebackers in pass coverage. Matt Barkley can expect plenty of blitzes. LeBeau likes to blitz, and while it hasn’t worked all that well this year, the Titans have been getting pressure relatively consistently. Central to those struggles is the guy that every single team picks on successfully, Perrish Cox.

He’s been arguably the worst corner in the league this year. The Bears will surely plan on attacking him throughout this game, and for good reason. I’m not entirely sure who’s going to match up with him on the outside, but if it’s Cameron Meredith or Eddie Royal, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to do damage.

Oct 16, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

4. Give me an under-the-radar Titans player on each side of the ball who Bears fans may not be familiar with yet, but will have a big impact on Sunday’s game.

Not sure if Rishard Matthews is still considered under-the-radar, but a lot of Bears fans might only know him because of fantasy football. Matthews has come on very strong after some early season struggles in his first year with the Titans after he signed as a free agent. His rising role and performance kind of forced Andre Johnson into retirement, and he’s become Mariota’s favorite weapon in the red zone. His emergence crescendoed last week in a nine catch, 122 yard performance against the Colts. I’d expect Tracy Porter, who is having a really good season himself, to spend most of his time trying to limit Matthews.

On defense, Kevin Byard is the guy you’re going to want to watch. While the Titans secondary has struggled mightily, Byard has been a massive bright spot as a rookie. His stellar play has pushed him into, essentially, a starting role (played the most snaps at safety last week). A ballhawk in college, Byard has added an in-the-box mentality to his game and is becoming one of the best players on the Titans defense.

Oct 27, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans fans cheer for their team against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Tennessee won 36-22. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

5. What’s your prediction for the game? Please include a brief description and a final score.

I think the Titans are going to handle the Bears rather easily. I know going away to Chicago is never an easy task, but I just don’t see how the Bears’ Matt Barkley-led offense can keep its team in this game.

If Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer was behind center, then my tune would be much different. The Bears haven’t been as bad as it’s seemed this year, but without their top two quarterbacks, their star wide receiver and a stud inside linebacker, I think this is the week the Bears unravel. I’ll say 27-13 Titans.

A big thanks to Matias and our friends at Titan Sized for their help with our questions.  Be sure to head over there to get all your Titans info.

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