1:00 PM ET, September 23, 2012
LP Field, Nashville, TN
The Tennessee Titans have stumbled through a miserable start but are hoping to end that by continuing a trend.
The Titans have experienced a bevy of success in recent years against NFC foes, especially at home, but Sunday's game is against a Detroit Lions team that's eager to redeem itself following a missed opportunity.
After going 9-7 in coach Mike Munchak's inaugural season, Tennessee was hoping for an even better finish in 2012. The Titans don't appear poised to achieve that goal, as they've been outscored 72-23 through their first two games.
They are 31st in the league with 248.0 offensive yards per game and their 25 first downs are the fewest. Chris Johnson gained only 17 yards on eight carries during last week's 38-10 drubbing in San Diego, and Jake Locker completed only half of his 30 passes.
That performance was actually an improvement from the season opener for Johnson, who topped 2,000 yards in 2009. The three-time Pro Bowler had a career-low four yards on 11 attempts against New England.
Tennessee (0-2) is off to its worst start since dropping six in a row to open the 2009 season. The Titans responded by winning eight of their final 10 that year.
"We're starting off not playing the way we thought we would so does that mean we panic? No definitely not," Munchak said. "We have too much work ahead of us. There's too much football to be played yet."
Munchak's team will try to get on track by improving on the franchise's 19-5 record against NFC foes over the past six seasons. Only New England's 22-3 mark is better among AFC teams.
Tennessee has also prevailed in nine of its last 11 home matchups against opponents from the other conference but will face a team that's won five in a row over AFC clubs.
Led by former Titans assistant Jim Schwartz, the Lions (1-1) are coming off their first trip to the playoffs in 12 seasons but haven't been at their best so far this year.
Detroit needed a last-minute touchdown to win its season opener against St. Louis on Sept. 9 and fell 27-19 at San Francisco this past Sunday. The Lions drove inside the 49ers' 25-yard line six times but scored only one TD and went 4 of 5 on field goals.
"We didn't play our best game really in any phases," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "I'm proud of our guys for fighting and staying in there, but we've got to put some effort into coming out and trying to play a little bit better."
Stafford, who had 5,038 yards and 41 TDs a year ago, has four interceptions and two touchdowns through the first two games, but the Lions' biggest concern might be their short-handed secondary.
Detroit claimed cornerback Jerome Murphy off waivers from New Orleans on Wednesday after Drayton Florence suffered a broken arm in last week's loss. Chris Houston (ankle), Louis Delmas (knee) and Bill Bentley (concussion) sat out against San Francisco, but Houston and Bentley returned to practice this week.
The Lions could get another boost with running back Mikel Leshoure expected to make his long-awaited NFL debut.
The 2011 second-round draft pick was suspended for the first two games this season after running afoul of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Leshoure missed all of last season after injuring his Achilles in training camp.
"We've been waiting to see him for a long time," Schwartz said. "He was showing us all things we needed before his rookie year when he got hurt."
The Titans might not have defensive captain Colin McCarthy to help them earn a fourth straight win over Detroit. The middle linebacker has an injured right ankle and was in a walking boot during the loss in San Diego.
Detroit was routed 47-10 during the most recent matchup with Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2008, at Ford Field. Johnson had 125 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
The Lions fell 24-19 during their only other visit to Nashville on Jan. 2, 2005.
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• Get Johnson his touches: Chris Johnson has been ineffective so far this season, but the running back advantage still goes to Tennessee. Johnson can dominate if provided with effective blocking; further, he is one of the most explosive offensive players in the league and has the speed to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. After Johnson publicly challenged his team, he likely will get a bunch of touches on off-tackle bounce plays, draws, screens and option routes this week.
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|Avg Points Allowed||31.3||37.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DET|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DET|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tennessee leads 4-0|
|Nov 27, 2008||DET 10, TEN 47|
|Jan 2, 2005||DET 19, @TEN 24|
|Oct 21, 2001||DET 24, TEN 27|