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The 8-6 San Francisco 49ers are in the postseason discussion now after their two-game winning streak led by an improving QB Jimmy Garoppolo who can now depend on a healthy TE George Kittle to continue to be open and get yards after his many catches, an offense that has been fortunate enough to have a wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, who can also run with the ball.
Last week, the 9-5 Tennessee Titans lost to the underdog Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-19, their four turnovers and inability to consistently convert on third downs (8/18) some of the reasons failing to win a game they spent the first half somewhat dominating, this 9-5 AFC South leader needing to fine-tune on all three sides of the ball if they hope to better the rising Colts in that division.
These two cross-conference rivals have played each other 14 previous times, with the Tennessee Titans winning 5 of those games and the San Francisco 49ers winning 9 of the games.
In Weeks 12 and 13, San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw three of his eight interceptions this season, though his otherwise high-level play has helped the 49ers to win the last five out of six games to help keep their playoff hopes alive, if only for a coveted NFC wildcard bid.
Now in his eighth NFL season, Garoppolo has endured plenty of ups and downs both as a backup to Tom Brady in his first few seasons with the Patriots and then as the Niners’ starter where he has battled injuries to stay under center an entire season.
This year, Garoppolo is 8-5 as the starter and he has impressed, completing 252 passes for 3,172 yards and 18 touchdowns with 8 interceptions, completing 67.4 percent of his passes and forcing defenses to game plan around his powerful and accurate arm.
Most football fans figured the Tennessee Titans would flounder the moment they lost star running back Derrick Henry in Week 8 to a foot injury since last year’s rushing yards leader seemed on his way to a repeat performance before his season ended abruptly.
But somehow HC Mike Vrabel’s game offensive game plan endured and his backup running back crew (see below) has stepped up in Henry’s absence and has kept their rushing attack ranked fifth in the league and a reason for defenses to panic.
The Titans battered front line gets plenty of the credit, of course, those holes don’t open up themselves, but watch for this Tennessee run game to play a huge role in Thursday’s matchup against a 49er’s rush defense ranked 12th in the NFL right now.
Ever since Rob Gronkowski started turning heads towards the team’s pass-catching and yards-earning tight ends, teams have wanted the same type of player for their roster, and in San Francisco the 49ers have an almost equitable version of Gronk with tight end George Kittle.
When healthy, Kittle provides a solid blocker on the line to help open up holes for the run game or to protect QB Garoppolo from the pass rush, and he also has soft hands that have caught 63 passes for 850 yards and 6 touchdowns, a reliable pass catcher in the red zone for sure.
Watch for Kittle to be targeted early and often since his successful presence forces defenses to adjust accordingly with double and triple teams which gives the Niners’ run game a better chance and all the other receivers more freedom to get open and earn yards after the catch.
The fact that the Titans’ offense continues to rank fifth in the league long after star RB Derrick Henry’s season ended due to a foot injury requiring surgery says a lot about the depth of the running back room in Tennessee, with D’Onta Foreman emerging as one of the team’s best.
Almost as big as Henry, the 6’ 1” 236 pound Foreman is difficult to tackle once he gets up a good helmet of steam, averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season, so far with 85 touches for 456 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, numbers that should increase in Henry’s absence.
Also taking a turn carrying the ball for the Titans are the talented Jeremy McNichols, Dontrell Hilliard, and Khari Blasingame, all capable of giving the starter some sideline rest, this running back squad generating over 142 yards of offense on the ground every game.
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|49ers vs Titans Information|
|What||San Francisco 49ers vs Tennessee Titans|
|Where||Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee|
|When||Thursday, December 23, 2021; 8:20 PM ET|
|How to watch||NFL Network|
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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