Titans’ reasons for optimism, concern in Week 10 vs. Saints

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The Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints will do battle in Week 10 at Nissan Stadium on Sunday in what is the first contest between these two teams since the 2019 season.

The Titans are the hottest team in the NFL right now after winning five straight games, including victories over the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Rams.

Tennessee entered the week with the best record in the AFC, and that will be secured for at least another week after the Baltimore Ravens lost on Thursday night to the Miami Dolphins.

Meanwhile, the Saints are looking to rebound following a Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Prior to that, the second-place Saints had mustered up a three-game winning streak.

This looks like a game the Titans should win, even without Derrick Henry. But on top of Tennessee’s reasons for optimism, there are also causes for concern that could derail the Titans’ hopes of winning a sixth straight.

We’ll take a look at both sides of the coin right now.

Optimism: Saints' pass defense

AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman

With Derrick Henry out, the Titans are going to need more from their passing game if they want to keep the offense moving in the right direction. Also, a get-right game is needed after the air attack struggled in Week 9.

This matchup with the Saints is favorable one for Ryan Tannehill and Co., as the Saints are giving up 273.3 passing yards per game, the sixth-most in the NFL. New Orleans has allowed four 300-yard passers this season.

But New Orleans’ struggles are a bit puzzling, as its secondary has some impressive players in it with guys like Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore, and sports an above-average pass-rush.

Concern: Saints' run defense

AP Foto/Brian Blanco, Archivo

The Titans had issues getting their ground game going in Week 9, and they’ll have a tough time doing so once again in Week 10 with New Orleans sporting the No. 1 run defense in the NFL.

Adrian Peterson led the way in carries with 10 against the Rams, and he found the end zone, but fellow back D’Onta Foreman looked like the best runner of the group, averaging a team-high 5.8 yards per carry. Perhaps we see more Foreman on Sunday.

This might be a game in which the Titans lead with their passing attack in order to make things easier upfront for their running back group.

Optimism: Saints' offense

AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman

After the retirement of Drew Brees, the Saints decided to go with Jameis Winston under center, but the former No. 1 overall pick is now out for the season with a torn ACL.

Taking his place is former Titans quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has performed admirably the last two weeks, completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns to no picks.

However, nobody is mistaking Siemian for a top-notch quarterback, and it also doesn’t help that the Saints are lacking weapons in the passing game for him to throw to. New Orleans currently sports the No. 31 passing attack.

Adding to all that, New Orleans might be without its best offensive player in Alvin Kamara, as the running back is dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice the first two days of the week.

Kamara plays a big role, both as a runner and receiver. His absence would leave an already short-handed Saints offense even worse off.

Concern: A letdown game

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The Titans have been susceptible to letdown games in the past against teams they should beat, and this contest certainly qualifies as one Tennessee should win based on what we’ve seen them do the past five weeks, and with all the issues the Saints currently have on both sides of the ball.

Of course, the Titans had one of those letdown performances earlier in the season against the New York Jets, and coming off an emotional win over the Rams, it’s possible that could happen against a New Orleans team that is far from a pushover like we all thought the Jets were.

The Titans have avoided letdown games during their five-game winning streak, which might be a sign that this team is turning the corner from something that has been a major issue the past few years.

If the Titans can go out and beat the Saints on Sunday, it’ll be another sign that is the case.

Optimism: Titans' defense

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The Titans’ defense has taken it to another level over their five-game winning streak, keeping in check quarterbacks such as Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford, mostly thanks to the pass-rush. Tennessee allowed a combined 19 points to the high-powered offenses of the Rams and Chiefs.

Coverage has been better as well, and that area has a chance to improve even more this week with the potential return of No. 1 cornerback, Kristian Fulton.

Tennessee’s pass-rush, led by Harold Landry, Denico Autry, Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree, has totaled 23 sacks so far this season, which ranks tied for sixth in the NFL and is four more than they tallied in all of 2020.

Even if the Titans’ offense falters against a good Saints defense, Tennessee is good enough on the other side of the ball to overcome that.

Concern: Ryan Tannehill's turnovers

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Tannehill has had a shaky season thus far, and his eight interceptions are one more than he tallied all of last season. He needs to avoid those mistakes on Sunday or else he could gift a shaky Saints offense good field position and easy points.

While the secondary has been giving up plenty of yards, the Saints have been very good at nabbing interceptions through eight games, totaling 11, tied for the third-most in the league.

Furthermore, New Orleans, which likes to be aggressive in getting after the quarterback, is capable of getting pressure and forcing bad throws. The Saints have 18 sacks, including 10 the last three weeks.

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