Dearest readers, welcome to the Thursday edition of TheRedShirts weekly NFL preview to be known from this time, till the end of time as the Lack Daddy report (or until I think of something more creative to call it). To preview, this article will be an in-depth breakdown of the TNF game. So if you’re looking for absurd predictions supported by borderline slanderous takes, I suggest you hit back now, and make your way over to Mikelberry’s liar. That being said, I will never mince words nor will I shy away from colorful descriptions. If your team, say my Tampa Bay Buccaneers for example, looks more like Paul Walker’s Porsche , than an actual professional football team, I will make that quite clear. So once again, thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Tennessee Titans(6-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers(7-2)
Heinz Field, 8:25 PM, NBC
As mentioned in my NFC Playoff Predictions, it’s getting to be that time of the year where just about every game matters. So much so, that even Thursday Night Football is getting in the spirit!!! Enter the Titans and the Steelers, two of the hottest teams in the NFL, both coming in with the hope of turning their respective four game winning streaks into five. No better way to know who’s going to win tonight then to examine their last four games.
Coming off two ugly losses without starting QB Marcus Mariota, a 43 point thrashing by the Deshaun Watson led Texans and a 10-16 loss to smokin’ Jay Cutty, the Titans appeared undeserving of the playoff hype they had received. Enter the NFL cure all: a home game against the Colts. During this game the Titans went back to their exotic smashmouth roots and rode Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray to a combined 31 ATT, 171 yards, 5.51 YPC, and 2 TD’s. Formula for success that they’ve used since then right? No, not really. Since the Colts game the Henry Murray express has been more of a caboose producing the following:
Browns: 31 carries, 72 yards, 2.32 YPC, 0 TD’s
Ravens: 17 carries, 45 yards, 2.64 YPC, 1 TD’s
Bengals: 25 carries, 94 yards, 3.76 YPC, 2 TD’s
Now they did win all of these games, but they didn’t score a touchdown against the winless Browns and had to go to overtime to beat them. The Ravens and Bengals have been two of the most lackluster squads in the NFL this year, and the Titans only beat them by a combined 7 points. This win streak is more a product of their opponents, rather than stellar play. One thing they do have going for them heading into Thursday’s matchup is that Mariota finally looked his normal self against the Bengals last week, rushing for 51 yards on just 6 attempts. If he can continue to make plays with his legs, the Titans will be able to find holes in the Pittsburgh secondary, who will be without top corner Joe Haden and possibly free safety Mike Mitchell who will be a game time decision. Otherwise it’s not looking good for the Titans…wait they have 6th ranked rush defense this year!….wait no, never mind, the only elite RB they faced this year was Leonard Fournette back in Week 2.
Since suffering another one of their routine “huh wait what how and why??” losses to Jacksonville at home, the Steelers have put together a fairly impressive win streak. Like the Titans, the Steelers’ opponents haven’t all been powerhouses (@KC, CIN, @DET, @IND) during this stretch but beating Kansas City and Detroit, who could be a sneaky playoff team, in their own stadiums is quite impressive. How have they done it?
RING THE DAMN BELL: It’s starting to look like Starkvegas the past four weeks in Pittsburgh. Lev Bell has averaged 33 touches and 144 yards a game during their winning streak. Roethlisberger may be who gets the game winning drives done, but Bell is the engine, alternator, radiator, headlights…you get the picture. This guy powers the team. He has struggled on the ground the past two games, but looks primed to continue his workload Thursday
Bike man JuJu: Running counter to Martavis Bryant’s social media blunders, Steelers rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster can do no wrong on social media. Whether our lovable rookie is crowd finding his stolen bike, or throat kicking Mia Khalifa back to the stone age, he just can’t lose. Oh by the way he’s also pretty filthy on the football field hauling in at least 97 receiving yards and a touchdown in each of his past two games.
The return of the Steel Curtain: Out of nowhere this season this defense seems to have returned to its golden days from long ago. In the past four games they’ve held each of their opponents under 17 points and at this point have the #1 overall defense, #2 pass defense, are tied for second in the league in sacks, and have the #11 rush defense. We all know what wins championships.
As mentioned earlier the Steelers will be without CB Joe Haden and could be without FS Mike Mitchell. These two are vital components of their defense this year and their absence makes the key matchup for this game come down to Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota VS Steelers LB Ryan Shazier. With the secondary banged up it’ll fall on the Steelers pass rush to make sure that Mariota does not have enough time to throw. Mariota will try to extend plays with his legs to ensure his WR’s are open but Shazier is one of the speedier linebackers in this league. It’ll be up to him to ensure the secondary doesn’t get shredded while Mariota tries to get creative.
The Steelers in the past four seasons, including this year are 20-7 at home. I think a massive serving of Lev Bell with a little good Juju sprinkled in will be enough for the Steelers to get the W…..unless they just have one of those Tomlin era inexplicable losses. PITTSBURGH 27 TENNESSEE 17