Last week, as I looked into my crystal ball, it told me to expect the worse against the Raiders and it was pretty accurate. This week, my crystal ball is telling me to look for marked improvement, and not just because the starters will be playing the majority of the game; though that is a part of it.
The other part, and I realize I'm setting myself up for some serious mud slinging in my direction, I really don't think the Titans are as good as everyone seems to think. Granted, it's just the preseason, and given the likely vanilla approach to play calling, the Cowboys very well may lose, as far as the scoreboard is concerned. When I say the Cowboys should do better tonight, I'm not talking about the final score. I'm talking about the match ups; the individual battles like Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten against their Safeties who give up quite a bit in height both being 6'0″ and LB's who likely give up quite a bit in speed. The Titans on their DL will be short Albert Haynesworth and did little to refortify that position against a team who has four running backs all capable of running it between the tackles effectively (I include Keon Lattimore in this assessment based off of his performance last week). Cortland Finnegan received quite a bit of praise for his 5 picks last year, but if Romo is insync with Roy Williams, Roy's 6'3″ height should create some serious issues for 5'10” Cortland.
In other words, if the Cowboys play their game, the Titans shouldn't get too many opportunities to field punts. You heard me right: If the Cowboys actually wanted to win the 1st half, I honestly believe the Titans would not be able to stop the Cowboys from, at least, getting a field goal on every opportunity the Cowboys offense has with the ball. And you may have noticed I said in an earlier post that the Titans identity was established through defense in 08; but then I looked at their competition, and I got a better idea of how their success story came about in 2008.
The Titans placed 27th in the league in passing and placed 7th in the league in rushing. Where is the Titans offensive identity? The run game. How did their opposition fair as whole a in both aspects of the game? See the below table.
[table id=8 /]
[table id=9 /]
The first thing that stands out is that the Titans only beat 5 teams with winning records. The next thing that stands out is the Titans strengths versus their oppositions weaknesses. For instance, when looking at the 5 wins against opponents that had winning records only (highlighted in blue), since the other 8 wins where games the Titans should have won, note how they ranked in the league and compare to where the Titans ranked. Also consider the point margins that they won by, which is also important. From these numbers I'll let you draw your own conclusion, but in my opinion, the Titans are not the complete package that they are being touted as (because truthfully I just don't have the time to spell it out).
They are a run first team, which may give the Cowboys trouble, but passing the ball might be pretty difficult against the Cowboys with the secondary at full strength tonight. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys are strong at rushing and passing. But since the Titans in 08 rarely faced teams that were good at doing both, I am predicting they will find it much more difficult to identify what the Cowboys are going to do presnap. This should play heavily in the Cowboys favor. If this was a regular season game, I'd predict an upset by a large margin in the Cowboys favor 35 – 13. But since it a preseason game and the Cowboys primary weakness is depth, I'll say the Cowboys will put up some serious points of about 24, limiting the Titans to 9, but likely will lose ground in the 2nd half putting up maybe 6 more points and giving up 17 for a final score of Cowboys 30 Titans 26.