Thursday, January 03, 2008

NFL WildCard Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: Tennessee at San Diego

San Diego Do’s and Don’t’s:

get the ball in the hands of Tomlinson early and often, then follow up with Turner/Sproles. LT’s magic on the field is what frees up Gates and Chambers. Throwing some mid-game and early 4th quarter carries in Turner’s and Sproles’s direction will offer enough of a breather for Tomlinson to take over at the end of the game.

Do force Vince Young to pass the ball (assuming Young is healthy enough to play). While Young has a slightly better completion percentage than Rivers, the TD/INT ratio is not even close (Young 9/17, Rivers 21/15). If Kerry Collins gets the nod, the Chargers pass rush might have a field day.

Don’t let Vince Young take the defense out of its game. While it might be a good idea to have either Merriman or Phillips spy on Young, it would be disastrous to allow more than one player focus on him. That’s what frees up players like Roydell Williams and Chris Henry to break long ones.

Don’t let Phillip Rivers within LT’s vicinity if he’s fresh off throwing an interception.

Tennessee Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do run the ball and tire out the Chargers defense. The Chargers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to run-defense. Sending LenDale White, Chris Brown and Chris Henry after the defense could wear out the Chargers defense enough for the Titans to make a move late in the game.

Do let the defense slow down the tempo of the game. The more vanilla the game, the more advantage for the Titans. This is a defense that found success over the last five games of the year by lulling opposing offenses to sleep. Keith Bullock and David Thornton must bring their A-games, to keep LT in check.

Don’t let the game get out of hand early. The Titans don’t have the best system for playing catch-up. In a three-game losing streak at the start of the second half of the season, they let Jacksonville, Denver and Cincinnati get early leads, and the Titans never recovered. Furthermore, they were games where Young averaged about 38 pass attempts per game totaling 2 TDs and 5 INTs.

Don’t let LT beat you. Put the ball in the hands of Rivers and let him try to beat you. Rivers is more prone to fatal errors than LT is. When Rivers has to force his game, he’s usually good for two to three picks.

Key Matchups:

When San Diego has the ball
TE Antonio Gates vs. S Michael Griffen
Gates put together another dominant season from the TE position. While most TEs in the league can be covered by an athletic linebacker, there are few linebackers in the league that can cover Gates. Griffen will have to spend most of the day shadowing Gates limiting his free space in center field. Griffen, a swing safety who can play corner, has the coverage skills to shut down Gates. Gates will have to bring his best.

When Tennessee has the ball
RB LenDale White vs. NT Jamal Williams
A matchup of some of the beefiest at their respective positions. White must move the pile on a consistent basis in order to open things up for Chris Henry and Chris Brown on the outsides. If Vince Young plays, one of the keys to success on offense will be the play-action. Not only will this open up receivers, as the play is designed for, it will also buy Young a precious second or two to decide whether he throws the ball, or tucks and runs for a gain.


Will Vince play?
This is the big question in this game. Young likely gives the Titans their only chance to win. Unfortunately, as much as Kerry Collins has helped this franchise in the past two years, he will most likely be helpless against the Chargers pass rush. The Titans desperately need Young’s mobility in the pocket (and outside of the pocket) if they plan on moving to the next round.

Can Norv Turner win in the playoffs?
This remains to be seen. We’ve already seen some unraveling at points (LT walking away from Rivers in disgust). Norv Turner coached teams have always shown a tendency to make mental errors late in games, especially in the playoffs. This lack of discipline has haunted him his entire head coaching career. For the Chargers players, however, last year’s letdown could fuel them to keep up their current momentum heading into the playoffs.

Final Score Prediction:

San Diego wins, 31-17

1 comment:

Chris Clement said...

A lot of interesting notes, especially on the Gates/Griffen matchup, in your post.

Three things:
1) Bo Scaife & Roydell Williams are OUT for the Titans. Big setback losing both of them, potentially the top two targets for Young downfield.
2) The Chargers have won 6 in a row. But check against whom (Baltimore, Kansas City, Tennessee, Detroit, Denver, Oakland). Although one of them was against Tennessee, they were down 17-3 in the 4th and got a lucky call on a Chambers drop. But they did win IN Tennessee.
3) Playing Madden 2008 on XBOX (sorry, no 360 for me), the Titans torched my new-look Rams (on All-Madden at least) with Eric Moulds catching 2 deep TDs. I lost 32-29 on a 57-yarder from Bironas. It hurt. But it was Madden...

Good work!