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VOL. 40 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 9, 2016

Broncos at Titans: What to watch

By Terry McCormick

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First down: Stop Von Miller. If you watched the Super Bowl last year, you know what a one-man wrecking crew Miller is. Wherever he lines up across the line from the Titans, they will have to account for him and simply cannot let him harass Marcus Mariota and the offense.

Second down: Don’t be intimidated. This is the biggest December game in Nashville in a number of years, and the stakes are even bigger with a perennial contender like the Broncos as the opponent.

The Titans may have to prove to themselves that this type of game is not too big for a young roster with limited playoff experience. That means not being tentative and tight, which can lead to turnovers, which could be fatal against a top defense like the Broncos.

Third down: Keep rolling with Mariota. Marcus Mariota has thrown at least two touchdown passes in a franchise-record eight straight games, and will face a big test Sunday against a Denver defense with plenty of talented players in the secondary looking to make game-changing plays.

Mariota had issues with turnovers earlier in the year, but those have subsided in recent weeks. He will have to keep it that way Sunday for the Titans to have a chance.

Fourth down: Pressure the QB. Whether Trevor Siemian is back under center for the Broncos or rookie Paxton Lynch gets the call again, the Broncos’ offense has been inconsistent this year.

Denver has top-flight receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, but getting the ball to them consistently has been an issue at times. The Titans need to pressure the quarterback and help a beleaguered secondary as much as they can.

Matchups to watch

Taylor Lewan vs. Von Miller: At times this might be Jack Conklin against Miller, but whoever is across from the Broncos linebacker has a big chore on his hands.

The Titans need to find out quickly if Miller can be blocked without consistent chipping and double teams by their young tackle tandem.

If not, then a quick adjustment must be made with more chipping and max protection formations. This should be a good measuring stick for Lewan/Conklin to see just how good they really are.

Rishard Matthews vs. Aqib Talib: Talib is still a top-shelf cornerback, and Matthews has been a good find for the Titans at wide receiver, setting new career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in his first season in Tennessee.

Mariota has developed a nice rapport with Matthews, something Talib and the Broncos no doubt are keenly aware of.

Titans cornerbacks vs. Broncos wide receivers: The Titans are already struggling in the secondary and are choosing this week between Valentino Blake and rookie LeShaun Sims to start opposite Jason McCourty.

That should be good news for Broncos receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, who have shown big-play capability, despite Denver’s quarterback issues this season.

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