ARLINGTON, Texas (WTVF) - The Titans will make a rare prime time appearance Monday as they take on the Cowboys at 7:15 p.m. CST. The game will mark just their second time on the coveted Monday night stage since 2014 and just their fourth appearance in eight years.
The Titans won their last Monday Night Football game, beating the Colts 33-16 last season. And players say they always look forward to playing under the lights on national tv.
“Everybody is always ready for prime time,” Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “Whether it’s Monday night or Thursday night it’s great. But Monday night is still the same old Monday night (that players dream of playing on).”
STATS OF THE MATTER
With the Texans (6-3) surviving a late Broncos field goal attempt Sunday to win their sixth straight game, the Titans are now a full two games back of first place in the AFC South.
After three straight losses, it goes without saying that Tennessee needs a win to get back on track and to keep pace with Houston. But Monday’s game is critical to just having a reasonable chance at making a playoff push in the second half of the season.
History shows that 4-4 teams have a one in three chance of making the playoffs while 3-5 teams see their postseason chances drop to just seven percent, making Monday’s game as close to a “must win” as a week nine game can be.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
It’s no secret the Titans offense has struggled this season, averaging just 15 points per game through seven games. They need to run the ball better and find more consistent pass catching targets, but most importantly they have to improve in the red zone.
Tennessee is scoring touchdowns on just 44 percent of its trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this season. That’s down from 55 percent last season and a league-best 72 percent two years ago. That decline means they’ve left valuable points off the board. A disaster for a team that’s failed to score a touchdown in three of its seven games.
Take two recent losses for example. The Titans settled for four Ryan Succop field goals in Buffalo in a game they lost 13-12. Then in London, Marcus Mariota threw his first career red zone interception just before half, costing them at least three points in a game they ultimately lost 20-19.
Dallas poses a significant challenge to the offense’s chances of getting going. The Cowboys rank second in the NFL in red zone defense, trailing only the Titans.
STOPPING THE STARS
The Cowboys have their iconic star logo adorning the side of their silver helmets, and America’s team has no shortage of star power.
The Dallas offense is led by third-year quarterback Dak Prescott, a dual threat that can beat you with his arm of his legs. Prescott should get some extra help in the passing game with the bye week addition of standout receiver Amari Cooper, who was acquired in a trade over the bye week with the Raiders.
But make no mistake, the Cowboys offense runs through, quite literally, running back Ezekiel Elliott. The third-year running back out of Ohio State has earned the reputation as one of the hardest running backs in the league.
This season Zeke is averaging 88 yards rushing per game, second only to Todd Gurley of the Rams. He also is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, so the Titans know they have to keep an eye on number 21 wherever he goes.
Their ability to swarm to the football and corral Elliott may just be the difference in whether they can emerge Monday night with a chance to win.