By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings finished the first quarter of the NFL season with a 3-1 record. Now the purple begin a four-game in 19-day second quarter of the season with a home contest against the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans enter the contest with a 1-3 record. Its lone win came in Week 3 at home against the Detroit Lions. The three losses came to the New England Patriots at home and the San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans on the road.
Titans on Offense
The Titans are one of the most simplistic and vanilla offenses in the NFL. They want to establish and throw quick short passes.
The passing game is still trying to get going. The two quarterbacks, Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck, have combined to complete about 63.3 percent of their passes. Hasselbeck averages 6.6 yards per attempt. Star running back Chris Johnson averages 3.2 yards per carry.
The strength of the Titans offensive line is left tackle Michael Roos. He is one of the league’s best, but the interior of guards Steve Hutchinson and Leroy Harris and center Fernando Velasco is terrible. Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion should have no problem creating havoc in the backfield.
The Titans rank 23rd in total offense, 28th in rushing offense, 18th in passing offense and tied for 23rd in scoring offense. Passing offense, aided by 378 yards against the Lions, is the only offensive category the Titans rank better than the Vikings.
Titans on Defense
On defense, the Titans run a 4-3 scheme, but tend to over-shift its linebackers.
Its leading tackler is strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers. He was a defensive end in college at the University of Tennessee. The Titans are trying to convert him to a 4-3 linebacker.
The Titans have struggled to make big plays on defense with two takeaways (one fumble recovery and one interception) and six sacks. Only cornerback Alterraun Verner has more than one of those plays (both takeways).
Statistically, the defense has been even worse than the offense; 31st in total yards, 27th in passing defense, 27th in rushing defense and 32nd in scoring defense.
Titans Players to Watch
Running Back Chris Johnson: The Titans offense goes through him. The fifth-year veteran leads the Titans with 186 rushing yards and is fourth in receiving with 11 catches for 79 yards. He is coming off a 141 yard effort against a very good Texans defense. That is his fourth highest single-game effort since the beginning of the 2010 season.
Defensive back Alterraun Verner: The third-year veteran is third on the Titans with 26 tackles and leads the team with one fumble recovery and one interception. The former fourth round draft pick of the Titans will most likely be the man covering Percy Harvin in one-on-one coverage. He is physical, like the rest of the Titans defensive backs he wants to knock receivers off their routes before they can get started.
When the schedule came out, this game was expected to be a much different matchup. The Titans were expected to be in the middle of the AFC South, while the Vikings were expected to be at the bottom of the NFC North. As it turns out, the Titans could be one league’s worst teams and the Vikings could be a middle-of-the-pack team. As long as the Vikings don’t look past the Titans, it should have no problem winning the game.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.