Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos

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Forums NFL Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos are getting hot down the stretch and they have the lead in the race for home field advantage in the NFL playoffs. The Tennessee Titans would be happy to just make the playoffs. If they want to get a shot at making the NFL post season, they will have to upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos. READ MORE OF THE GAME PREVIEW HERE

    [FONT=’5′][ALIGN=’center’]Check back all week as this thread will be updated on a regular basis with information on this game and a free pick by gameday![/ALIGN][/FONT]


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    The Tennessee Titans fight to stay in the AFC Playoff race continues this weekend as they face the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Start time in Sunday’s showdown between the two AFC squads is set for 4:05pm ET; the game will be broadcast live on CBS.

    Tennessee’s playoff hopes took a hit over the weekend as it fell 14-22 to the Colts in Indianapolis. The loss dropped the Titans record to 5-7 and left them looking up at the Dolphins, Ravens, and Chiefs in the battle for the final two playoff spots in the AFC.

    Tennessee, if it hopes to pull off an upset against the Broncos, can ill afford the kind of performance quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in against the Colts. Just a week after the Harvard product led the Titans to a comeback win in Oakland, he completed just 21-of-37 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

    If he duplicates that effort against Denver, Tennessee will almost certainly absorb a 20 or more point loss.

    Fitzpatrick has done enough good things throughout his career, though, to warrant some belief in his ability to bounce back. Besides, his challenge will not be as great as the one Tennessee’s defense will face.

    The Titans have proven themselves a capable defensive unit, but dealing with the Peyton Manning and the Broncos offensive attack, especially at Mile High, is a tall order. Denver is a perfect 6-0 at home this season and it is has scored fewer than 35 points as a host just one time.

    The Broncos also get head coach John Fox back this week, which should provide an emotional boost to a team that has played in two emotionally draining games.

    Notable Trends: The Broncos are 12-1 straight up and 9-4 against the spread in their last 13 games playing at home off of a road game in Kansas City.


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    When Broncos coach John Fox made the “next man up” philosophy be the way his team would handle the impact of injuries, he probably didn’t think he’d be a case in point.
    But safety David Bruton didn’t let Fox off the hook Monday, a day after the next man up philosophy played a significant role in a 35-28 Broncos victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

    “The next man up has been very important for us not just with the players, but the coaching staff as well,” said Bruton, Denver’s fifth-year player from Notre Dame. “Coach (Jack) Del Rio did a great job as the next man up. We always talk about players stepping up and we’re definitely living it this season.”

    Fox returned Monday to the Broncos’ practice facility at Dove Valley after missing four games while recovering from open heart surgery. Del Rio was the next man up, stepping up from his post as defensive coordinator to be interim head coach. He went back to his old job after leading the Broncos toa 3-1 record during his term, including Sunday’s victory that put the Broncos in the lead in the AFC’s West Division race.

    Against the Chiefs, the next man up philosophy might have played its biggest role of the season. The Broncos were missing four defensive starters, Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson on the defensive line and Rahim Moore and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie in the secondary.

    “Those are four valuable players,” Fox said of the missing starters. “We’ve lost some starters over the last couple of weeks. I know people give me stuff about it (next man up), but it is true and it’s the mindset of this building.”

    The patched-up Denver defense took Kansas City’s early rush and didn’t crumble, then held off the Chief’s late try to tie the score.

    “They gave us their best shot at the beginning,” Bruton said. “But instead of unraveling, we showed them we had a good defense.”

    An interception of an Alex Smith pass by linebacker Wesley Woodyard in the end zone was a huge play in denying the Chiefs early momentum on their opening possession and allowing the Broncos’ reworked defense to get its feet on the ground without falling behind.

    Rookie defensive lineman Sylvester Williams was a new starter on defense, filling in for Kevin Vickerson.

    “It felt good to have my teammates rely on me,” Williams said. “The defensive line is where it all starts. I made some plays. Now we have a big week coming up.”

    When lineups are changed, safety Duke Ihenacho noted there are subtle differences.

    “I wouldn’t say there’s a drop off in quality, but players have different ways of doing their jobs and you have to get used to it,” Ihenacho said. “We have a good group and good depth. When a player goes down, another player steps up, that’s been the story all year.”


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    Though several key players are dealing with injuries, one very important member of the Denver Broncos will return to the field Sunday.

    Four weeks after open-heart surgery, coach John Fox will be back on the sideline when the Broncos host the Tennessee Titans with a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

    “Obviously, the doctors feel good about me getting back to work,” Fox said. “I actually would have preferred to be back sooner, but there was a pretty hard deadline of four weeks post-surgery and I honored that and here I am.”

    Interim coach Jack Del Rio, who led the team to a 3-1 record in Fox’s absence, will return to his duties as defensive coordinator.

    The Broncos (10-2) welcome their coach back after a critical victory last week, 35-28 over Kansas City that gave them a one-game lead over the second-place Chiefs in the AFC West. Peyton Manning threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns – four to Eric Decker – as Denver grabbed the tiebreaker over Kansas City and took control of the race for the top seed in the conference.

    The Broncos, which won without four defensive starters, can secure a postseason berth with a win or tie Sunday. They’ll also get in if Miami or Baltimore loses or ties.

    Derek Wolfe was placed on injured reserve and fellow defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is uncertain to return this season after being hospitalized Friday with seizure-like symptoms suffered on the way to Kansas City. Defensive backs Rahim Moore and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie are uncertain for this game.

    Manning’s 41 touchdowns are 12 more than anyone else’s total. He’s thrown at least seven to five teammates.

    “I think he showed people why he’s so great,” said Decker, the AFC offensive player of the week. “How we run our offense, we’re very versatile as far as going inside, outside, left, right, whatever it may be.”

    Tennessee could provide a test as it has the seventh-best pass defense in the NFL at 212.6 yards allowed per game. The Titans have recorded 31 sacks, and they’ll face a Denver team that’s allowed 15 to tie Detroit for the fewest in the league.

    The bigger issue for Manning, however, may not be the Titans defense. Much has been made of his struggles in cold weather, and Sunday’s forecast calls for high temperatures in the teens and a chance of snow.

    Manning has a 7-6 regular-season record when the gametime temperature is below 40 degrees, the most recent such contest being a 34-31 loss to New England on Nov. 24 in which he threw for a season-low 150 yards and went 19 of 36.

    “We’ll definitely be outside and probably the worse the weather, the better for us,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Hopefully there’s a big snowstorm to give us a great chance to win.”

    The Titans (5-7) need a victory to stay in the thick of the wild-card hunt. A 22-14 loss to Indianapolis last week likely ended their chances of winning the AFC South, as they’re three games behind the Colts with four to play. Tennessee, though, is one game out of the sixth and final seed in the AFC.

    “If everyone wins out, then we’re out. I guess that’s how it works,” Munchak said. “All we can do, again, is the obvious. You got to win all four games and hope they lose one, a couple teams that are ahead of you. We got a couple tough ones ahead. We’ve made it harder without a doubt, so we have to win a game this weekend which most people don’t think we have a chance to win.”

    Mistakes killed the Titans’ chances of winning last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick had four turnovers, including an interception with 33 seconds remaining after driving into Colts territory. Tennessee also had six penalties for 74 yards.

    “That’s been our biggest thing all season,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “Mental errors when it comes to crunch time we just can’t snap out of it and get these wins.”

    Titans tight end Delanie Walker is uncertain to play Sunday. Walker, second on the team with 45 receptions, suffered a concussion last week and will be reviewed through the league’s concussion protocol system.


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    The Denver Broncos own sole possession of first place in the AFC West following a road victory last week.

    They also now have their head coach back and are closing in a playoff spot.

    John Fox is expected to be on the sidelines for the first time since late October when the Broncos put their perfect home record on the line against the Tennessee Titans.

    Denver was 7-1 under Fox, who underwent a heart procedure on Nov. 4 after complaining of lightheadedness during a golf outing a few days earlier. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio took over for Fox on an interim basis and the Broncos won three of four under Del Rio.

    “We missed him,” said Del Rio. “It will be great to have him back.”

    Del Rio’s stint as interim coach included a pair of victories over Kansas City, putting the 10-2 Broncos a game ahead of the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.

    The Broncos announced last Thursday that Fox had been medically cleared to resume his duties and he returned to work on Monday, saying he felt good and that the hardest part was watching his team play and not being there.

    “As my surgeon said, I had a valve that was about as big as a pinhead and now it’s the size of a 50-cent piece. I feel tremendous,” Fox said. “Obviously, the doctors feel good about me getting back to work. I actually would have preferred to get back sooner, but there was a pretty hard deadline of four weeks post-surgery. I honored that and here I am.”

    And here the Broncos are, holding the AFC’s top record thanks in part to a 6-0 mark at home. That included a 27-17 win over the visiting Chiefs on Nov. 17, but they failed to take advantage the following week with a 34-31 overtime setback to the New England Patriots.

    Denver blew a 24-0 halftime lead versus New England, but was able to dig itself out of a 21-7 hold to beat the hosting Chiefs 35-28.

    Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes, four of those to wide receiver Eric Decker. Running back Knowshon Moreno also caught a touchdown pass and rookie Montee Ball ran for 117 yards on 13 carries.

    Manning and Decker connected for three straight scores to start the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a 35-21 lead. The Chiefs made it a one-score game on Jamaal Charles’ one-yard touchdown with 6:32 left, but a final drive came up short when Alex Smith’s fourth-down pass to Dwayne Bowe was broken up by Broncos safety Mike Adams in the end zone.

    “A great, gritty effort on the road,” said Del Rio. “We knew it was going to be a hostile environment and figured they would have a surge early with emotion as a factor and I love the way our guys responded to that.”

    Manning threw two interceptions in the first half that led to Kansas City touchdowns, but finished with 403 yards passing and broke his own Broncos record by reaching 41 touchdown passes this season.

    Decker had eight receptions for 174 yards and came into the game with three touchdown catches on the season before hauling in his team-record four versus the Chiefs.

    Denver can now clinch a playoff spot with a victory. The Broncos could also lock up a postseason bid with a loss by either Miami or Baltimore.

    The Titans, meanwhile, fell to 5-7 on the season and a game back of Baltimore and Miami for the second wild card spot in the AFC with a 22-14 setback at the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

    Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off three times and also lost a fumble as the Colts kicked five field goals before sealing the outcome with Donald Brown’s four-yard TD run with 1:56 to play.

    “I think you always have to give them credit,” noted Fitzpatrick. “That being said, I didn’t play well today in a lot of different aspects but obviously in the turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win in any game.”

    Fitzpatrick threw for 201 yards and a touchdown while also scoring once on the ground as the Titans outgained the Colts 347-264 and had five sacks despite the losing outcome.

    Tennessee fell three games back of Indianapolis for first place in the AFC South and is 0-4 against the division this season.

    “You’re not going to win the division when you’re 0-4 in your division and that’s where we’re at,” said Titans coach Mike Munchak. “We have plenty of opportunities. It seems like we stand here after a lot of these games saying we lost to Houston in overtime, we lost to these guys by three points, by a touchdown, we lost to Jacksonville by two. We’re there, we can’t finish the game. We make too many mistakes for whatever reason.”

    The Titans are wrapping a three-game road trip and host the Arizona Cardinals next weekend. They are one victory shy of matching last season’s total of six.

    Tennessee snapped a three-game losing streak to Denver with a 17-14 home victory on Sept. 25, 2011 and lead the all-time series 21-14-1. However, the Titans are under .500 in the Mile High City at 7-8-1.


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    The big focus will be on if Fox’s return alters the Broncos’ game plan in any way.

    That isn’t likely, given the Manning-led offense ranks first in the NFL in yardage and scoring, putting up 38.7 points per game.

    Denver’s 464 pints are the third-most by a team through the first 12 games of a season in NFL history, behind only the 2007 New England Patriots (469) and 1950 Los Angeles Rams (466).

    “I don’t think it will change much. … I’m sure it will be very similar,” said Munchak. “When you’re winning and successful like they have been, there’s not going to be a lot of changes in what they do as we start to study them. It’s going to be a challenge. They’re playing well, and they’re usually playing with a lead.”

    That has a lot to do with Manning, whose 4,125 passing yards are the most in league history through 12 games. His 41 touchdown passes also are two shy of Drew Brees (2012( for the seventh-most in a single season. Manning is already second on that list with 49 thrown in 2004 with the Colts, later surpassed by only Tom Brady’s 50 in 2007 for New England.

    Manning gave a lot of credit to Del Rio for keeping the team together while Fox was gone.

    “You can tell he’s an experienced head coach,” Manning said of Del Rio. “Our team has faced a lot of adversity in a short time and you never expect your head coach not to be with you the entire time. But coach Del Rio’s done a good job of keeping us together. He had a tough stretch of four games and we were able to endure.”

    Receivers Decker, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas all have over 60 receptions this season, with Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas having caught 10 touchdown passes. Moreno has added two receiving scores to his nine rushing and Welker has nine TD grabs, leaving the Broncos one Welker touchdown short of becoming the first team in NFL history to have four players total at least 10 touchdowns from scrimmage.

    A lot of focus this weekend could be on Decker, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, and avoiding a letdown.

    “We know what our goal is ultimately and to be able to achieve a championship you have to be consistent and I think that’s one of the biggest things about this locker room, the character of the guys in here is that we’re always striving to get better,” noted the wideout. “We’re never slowing down or being OK with what we did. We’re always kind of stepping that ladder.”

    Julius Thomas needs one scoring catch to pass Shannon Sharpe for the most by a tight end in team single-season history, but has missed the past two games with a knee injury.

    Defensive end Derek Wolfe also missed the Chiefs game after being hospitalized when he experienced seizure-like symptoms last Friday.

    The Titans rank seventh in defending the pass, giving up just 212.6 yards per game. They held the Colts to 160 net passing yards and got sacks from five different players.

    Jurrell Casey notched his team-high eighth sack of the season last weekend, the most among AFC defensive tackles, while end Derrick Morgan logged his fifth.

    Facing Manning is certainly a test, but the Titans are eligible to have safety Michael Griffin back after he served a one-game suspension for his second violation this season of delivering a blow to the head of a defenseless receiver.

    Griffin is third on the club with 60 tackles and George Wilson last weekend filled the void created by the suspension. Wilson logged five tackles and two passes defended.

    “That was disruptive not having your starting safety,” noted Munchak. “I thought George (Wilson) came in and did a nice job. When you look at the numbers, if you’re into stats, we won every stat except the turnover stat and the final score.”

    Munchak’s offense was also thrown off by the loss of tight end Delanie Walker (45 receptions, 5 TD) to a concussion during the Colts game. With Craig Stevens already out due to a concussion suffered the week earlier, Taylor Thompson was the only healthy tight end.

    Fullback Collin Mooney was also lost during the game due to a leg injury.

    With the status of Walker and Stevens unknown until the end of the week, the Titans signed tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on Tuesday and he practiced the following day.

    “They both seem to be doing pretty good, but we got to follow the procedure there. Hoping to have both of them on Friday,” Munchak said of Walker and Stevens.


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    Tight end Craig Stevens (concussion), tackle David Stewart (shoulder), tight end Delanie Walker (concussion) and wide receiver Damian Williams (hip) are all listed as questionable for the Titans. Defensive end Derek Wolfe (illness) is out for Denver, who also listed cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) and kick returner Trindon Holliday (shoulder) are questionable.

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