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Story By: Brady Trapnell
Titans Writer/Reporter

The Tennessee Titans (8-4) are headed out west this week to take on the Arizona Cardinals (5-7) at University of Phoenix Stadium in week 14.

Coming off back-to-back key wins over AFC South division rivals in Houston and Indianapolis, the Titans will be looking to improve to nine wins this early in a season for the first time since 2008.

The last time these two faced off was December 25, 2015, and the Cardinals won, 37-34 in overtime. And, the Titans are the only team to have never played in University of Phoenix stadium.

Let’s break down this matchup against Bruce Arians’ club. Here are two key matchups to watch for and who has the advantage.

Cardinals Defense vs. Titans Struggling Offense

The Cardinals have lost three out of their last four games. On the other hand, the Titans have won six out of their last seven.

Much of the reason why Arizona has lost is because of their patchwork defense. It simply is not the defense that carried the Cardinals in 2016.

In the offseason, the Cardinals let five of their defensive starters explore the free agent market. One of them, Calais Campbell, has 12.5 sacks with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And last season, they ranked second in the NFL in total defense.

Now, according to NFL.com stats, the defense ranks 13th in total defense. ESPN.com stats rank 27th on third down, 25th in points allowed per game and 26th in the red zone.

Those rankings and stats will be intriguing against this Tennessee offense, which has struggled over the past few weeks. They haven’t scored more than 24 points since week six of the season.

The key for the Titans offense will be to win the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals are still a stout run defense, allowing less than 100 yards per game.

And, if Tennessee can find room against an Arizona secondary with Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, this offense will be in a good place.

It is hard to think the Titans speed and talent at skill positions won’t be able to put up points on this team, but who knows with Terry Robiskie’s play calling at the helm.

Advantage: Tennessee Titans

Titans Defense vs. Blaine Gabbert

A lot of writers on the Arizona side are saying the Cardinals offense may be able to exploit the Titans secondary completely on the way to a win.

Their reasoning is the Titans 25th ranked pass defense. But, Blaine Gabbert is the Cardinals starting quarterback after a Carson Palmer injury. Blaine Gabbert.

Yes, the defense allowed over 300-yards passing to Tom Savage but that is not indicative of the defensive performance.

“A lot of garbage yards, we’re not really concerned with the numbers per se,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said after Sunday’s win over Texans. “Keep them out of the end zone, number one objective. The scored 13 points and three points in the second half.  I’ll take that any day.”

Tennessee’s defense has not allowed more than 20 points in five of their last six games.

Rushing defense should not be a worry. Starting running back Adrian Peterson is questionable (neck injury) for the game against the third-ranked rush defense in the league.

Tennessee is making Arizona one dimensional with a former first round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, Gabbert has played pretty well in his three starts this season, including a win over his former team with the first-ranked defense in the NFL.

But, he has thrown 5 INTs in three games. He is a larger weakness on an offense with Larry Fitzgerald, who is less than 30 yards away from moving to 3rd-overall in NFL history in receiving yards, and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones who has received more targets since Gabbert took over.

However, this matchup could still be extremely close. Cornerback Logan Ryan cleared concussion protocol this week and is expected to play Sunday. How will the Titans young corners – Adoree Jackson and LeShaun Sims play against a physical bunch?

Still, the Titans have the edge because of Gabbert’s history.

Advantage: close, but Tennessee Titans

Prediction: 

Tennessee Titans: 28
Arizona Cardinals: 17

(Featured Photo Credit: USA Today/12 News)

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