Break it down, fellas.
Passing Game: The Falcons have taken several swigs of the rejuvenation juice in this area. Rational people will point to Joey Harrington's track record and predict that his stunning two game streak of awesomeness won't continue, but I drove past rational on a blue elephant a while ago. I'm not sold on the Titan cornerbacks, to start with. Joey Joe Joe has been slicing and dicing secondaries for two games in a row, and with no one who I believe will be capable of shutting down White, Jenkins and Crumpler, it could be a very fun game indeed. Still, eventually Harrington is due to have a game where he chucks an interception or makes a couple of bad throws. As long as he doesn't let it rattle him (and he seems more confident than in season past), everything should be fine.
From the Titans' end there's that guy, Vince Young. Through three games he's thrown 3 TDs, 2 interceptions and been sacked four times. None of that is all that impressive, but he has completed nearly 63% of his passes. The view frequent poster Hamburger and I share of Vince Young is the same as Mike Vick: a subpar passer who makes things happen with his legs. To be fair, Vick was a shiftier runner and his leadership skills were, in retrospect, not as good as Young's. I still think it's fair to compare them, though, because Young's career completion percentage is still only 53 percent. He will have to improve that and hopefully for Titans fans the first few games have been a sign that he's doing so. Still, with a stable of not-so-great receivers (Brandon Jones leads the way with 10 catches, 136 yards and a TD), the passing game should be at most break even with the unimpressive Falcon secondary.
Lines? Harrington 24/31, 225 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks; Young 14/22, 150 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 rushing TD
Edge: The Falcons have the edge here and it's barely a contest, in my mind. Vince Young is much more likely to get things done with his feet and Harrington's blue hot right now.
Running Game: The Falcons have been sitting in front of a powerful supercomputer all week, consulting with government officials and scholars on how to get the ball into Norwood's hands. Until they figure it out, expect the running game to continue to be underwhelming. Warrick Dunn is proving conclusively that average to slightly above average this point and the line isn't opening big enough holes to change anyone's mind. Norwood needs to break a couple big runs to give the coaching staff more confidence in him and the Falcons still need to find someone they can use to pound the ball. The Falcons are doing well without the ground game, but at some point they've got to get things moving.
The Titans are having no such issues. Chris Brown hasn't found the end zone yet, but he's rushed 42 times for 247 yards. That's an incredible 5.9 yards per carry, which doesn't bode well for a Falcons team that's still allowing too many yards on the ground. Amazing fat machine LenDale White isn't doing quite as well but has a pair of TDs; both guys are big enough to cause problems up the middle. In addition, the Titans have Vince Young running. If Tennessee is going to beat the Falcons, this is where the magic will have to happen. The linebackers are going to have their work cut out for them.
Lines? Warrick Dunn 13 carries, 55 yards, 0 TDs; Chris Brown 18 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD
Edge: Definitely the Titans. This shouldn't actually even be close, but I'm hoping Dunn and Norwood will get going. After five weeks of hoping, I'm actually closer to insisting.
Run Defense: I think I've already made it clear how I feel about this from the Falcons side. The linebacking corps ends up having way too much to do after runners just kind of nonchalantly stroll around the edges, and Anderson and Abraham both have to get better against the run if that's going to stop. We're probably going to get gashed by the Titans; the Falcons just need to get big stops in the red zone.
The Titans have been unsustainably good against the run. Through three games they're allowing something like 60 yards per game, which is completely absurd. That being said, they do have a solid run defense and aren't going to give Dunn and Norwood anything. It could be a long and miserable day unless Norwood breaks a couple of long runs.
Edge: The Titans. They're just better at stopping the run than the Falcons. Sometimes these things are really no brainers.
Pass Defense: This is where things get interesting. Music City Miracles contends that the Titan cornerbacks are better than I give them credit for, but I fail to see it. Nick Harper is their best coverage guy and I'm not even convinced he can slow down Roddy. The Falcons are going to be picking on the corners all day and I think that'll work out remarkably well for us. The safeties, in my humble opinion, aren't much better. It's a small sample size, but through three games they've been getting absolutely murdered through the air, and the suddenly airborne Falcons should provide a stiff challenge.
Of course, we're not much better. If Hall is going to miss this game or even parts of it due to his injury, the secondary immediately becomes suspect. Crocker and Milloy has been reasonably effective as safeties, but they're not stellar in coverage. That's where you enter the immortal Lewis Sanders, who couldn't cover two slices of bread with mayonnaise. David Irons is clearly too raw to throw into the fire as a #1 or #2 option, but if Chris Houston is lining up opposite Sanders it might be a good idea to give Irons some exposure as a nickel back. With the Titan receivers, there's no time like the present.
Edge: If DeAngelo Hall plays, the Falcons. If he doesn't, it's a wash.
Morten Andersen is amazing. We need to get him to spawn with various women and create a race of super Danes right now. Then again, he's probably the ancestor of everyone who's reading this blog right now, so scratch that. Still, Andersen keeps proving that he can get the job done as long as it's not 75 yards out. I have complete confidence in him and wish we hadn't wasted two damn weeks of the season on Matt Prater. Koenen is still good, Norwood still returns well, and Jennings still needs to get his ass in gear.
The Titans have Rob Bironas, who is also pretty dependable but has trouble with anything over 40 yards. They also really need to Josh Miller to step up or Craig Hentrich to come back, because Miller's averaging 40 yards. That's 40 yards with several bounces, too. I don't fear the field position battle here too much. Michael Griffin is pretty dangerous in the return game, but so far he hasn't managed to get too close to the end zone. Above average, I'd say.
Line? Andersen 3/3 FG, 2/2 XP, Norwood 4 KR, 85 yards, Jennings 3 PR, 28 yards; Bironas 1/1 FG, 2/2 XP, Griffin 6 KR, 110 yards, Chris Davis 2 PR, 25 yards.
Edge: More or less a wash, but I'll give the Falcons a slight edge because I <3 Morten Andersen.
Final Prediction: The Falcons are riding some good momentum and have a passing game on fire that matches up well against the Titan secondary. Call it Falcons 23, 17.