MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. December 10, 2023 – The Titans face the Miami Dolphins on Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Here’s a look at six things to watch in the contest:
17th start for Will Levis
Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis will be making his seventh NFL start, and he’ll be playing in his second prime-time contest. Levis has thrown for 1,266 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions through six games, with a passer rating of 86.9, and a completion percentage of 57.8. He’s had more good moments than bad ones, and his progress has been evident. He’ll have a chance to prove it on national television on Monday night. What’s also clear: The Titans need to be better around their young QB. Levis has been sacked 19 times since Week 8 (third most in the NFL during that span), and the stagnant stretches of offense can’t all be pinned on the guy taking the snap. Things won’t be easy on MNF – the Dolphins are ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense, and they have 41 sacks in 2023, which is 3rd most in the NFL.
2Watch the X Plays
The Titans were victimized by a number of explosive plays in the passing game against the Colts. The challenge is much bigger against the high-flying Dolphins, who have scored 30-plus points in seven games, 45-plus points in two games, and a 70-point effort in Week 3. Yes, 70 points. The Dolphins have weapons all over the field on offense, from receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to running backs Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa orchestrates the attack, and he loves to throw the deep ball. The Titans better be locked in, or they could get embarrassed over the top.
3Defense Without Big Jeff
Making things even more difficult for the Titans: Big defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is out for Monday’s game. Starting cornerback Kristian Fulton is also out, which means the short-handed Titans are going to need everyone to step up. Tagovailoa gets the ball out quickly, so it’s going to be tough for defenders to get to him. Tackling well is going to be a necessity, but Mostert and Achane are make-you-miss runners. The Dolphins have 187 plays of 10 yards or more, which is easily the highest number in the NFL. The Titans need to start making more plays in the secondary – the team has just three INTs in 12 games.
4Run the Damn Ball
One of the best ways to limit the success of Miami’s offense is to keep them off the field. Enter running back Derrick Henry, and his sidekick, Tajae Spears. Henry is second in the NFL with 841 rushing yards, and his eight touchdowns are 7th most in the NFL. Henry is coming off a 102-yard effort last week, and he has 125-plus scrimmage yards in two of his last three games on MNF. Spears, meanwhile, is coming off a career-best 88 scrimmage yards (75 rush, 13 receiving) last week against the Colts. The Dolphins have been solid against the run, allowing just 96.6 yards per game (8th best in the NFL). The Titans need to find a way a way to control the ball, and keep the clock moving.
5Calm Down Special Teams
OK, this was a mess last week. Two blocked punts, a missed extra point and an injury to punter Ryan Stonehouse spelled doom for the Titans. It also got special teams coach Craig Aukerman dismissed, and replaced by assistant Tom Quinn. The Titans added punter Ty Zentner, and he’ll handle punting duties against the Dolphins, along with serving as the holder for Nick Folk’s kicks. The Titans need to clean up the things that have contributed to them getting beat, and it would be nice to see some game-changing plays in their favor. Against a good Dolphins team, it would be great to win this category.
6Importance on Week 14
The Titans aren’t completely dead in the playoff race, but it’s looking pretty bleak. The Titans are underdogs for the 11th time in 13 games against the Dolphins, who are favored by a whopping 13 points. Since 1990, teams that started a season 5-8 have made the playoffs 1.6% (2/127) of the time, won the division 1.6% (2/127) of the time and won the Super Bowl 0.0% (0/127) of the time. The percentages for teams that started 4-9: 0% for playoffs, 0 for division and 0% for Super Bowl.