The Seahawks head to Nashville this weekend for a Week 16 matchup with the Tennessee Titans, another game that is crucial for Seattle's playoff hopes. To help you get ready for this week's game, we reached out to TennesseeTitans.comsenior writer Jim Wyatt with five questions about this week's opponent.
The Titans fell to 5-9 with another close loss last week—their sixth by a single-digit margin—and were eliminated from playoff contention, what hasn't gone as planned this year for Tennessee to be in this position?
Wyatt: I think there's certainly a lot of frustration because the team has lost games that they have been used to winning in the past; close games that could have gone either way. In previous years under Mike Vrabel, the Titans always found a way to win those games, and now they're finding ways to lose. Vrabel has not been in a situation before where he's coaching games without playoff implications down the stretch. I think for him, it's a good challenge just to try to keep players focused, keep them motivated, and find the right mindset to win games, because the Titans are going to be playing three games against teams that are in the playoff hunt, They're going to need to match their intensity and they want to finish on a positive note, even in a disappointing season."
What has rookie quarterback Will Levis brought to the offense since taking over the starting job, and what's the plan if he can't play this week due to an ankle injury.
Wyatt: I've been impressed with him. I think he's brought some toughness; he's brought some leadership, he's brought athletic ability and a skill set that has given fanbase reason to be optimistic, despite the team losing a lot of games. He took over, the game against the Falcons, and it was really a situation where Ryan Tannehill wasn't healthy at the time. A lot of people were thinking you need to find out what you had in the young quarterback anyway. He gets thrown into the mix and has left no doubt that the right guy is playing. When he has played, he has been better than what Ryan Tannehill showed during the season. By him playing, you're able to evaluate him and figure out if he's your guy moving forward. Based on what I've seen and based on what most people have seen, he has been pretty convincing as a guy that you can go into next season with as your starter. That's at least one thing to feel good about for what's been a tough year.
As for the injury, Vrabel said Levis is dealing with an ankle sprain, and it has been reported that he's got a high ankle sprain. High ankle sprains obviously have different degrees of severity; it kept Ryan Tannehill out for several weeks when he had one, and same thing last year. If he in fact has a high ankle sprain, it's going to be hard to see him playing, not only Sunday, but for the rest of the year. If it's not as severe, you obviously want him to play, because I think there's a school of thought, 'Well, we've seen enough, just sit on the rest of the year and let somebody else play.' I think the team would like to see him finish the year, because the more he plays, the more he's going to grow, the better off he's going to be going into next year.
If Levis, who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, isn't able to play, Vrabel said Tannehill will start in his place.
Derrick Henry and the running game haven't found a ton of success in recent weeks, what has contributed to that?
Wyatt: It's a combination of a lot of things. I think it's easy when you look at Derrick Henry's stat line and see he had 16 carries for nine yards. People look at that and say, 'Well, he's at the end, he's had several games where he has struggled.' I don't think it's all him. The run blocking has not been good in a lot of situations. They've gotten themselves in long down-and-distance situations where they've had to abandon the run. Could he be better? Yeah. And he would tell you he could be better. He says that after every game, he always puts it on him, but it's not all on him. They've got to do a better job of blocking for him. He's getting hit in the backfield way too much. He just doesn't have a lot of room to run, and it's been a different offense this year. Since he's been here, since he took over for DeMarco Murray at the end of the 2017 season, the offense has kind of been built around him and it's all worked off of him. That's not the case this year. He doesn't get the carries he has gotten in the past, he's splitting time with Tyjae Spears, and as a result, his numbers have suffered.
Aside from the obvious big names, what player or players could you see being an X-factor in this game?
Wyatt: I mentioned Tyjae Spears. Spears is going to be a bigger part of things moving forward. He had a really good game in a Week 14 win over the Dolphins with a career-high in all-purpose yards. He is due to break a long one, and he's going to be a bigger part of what they do. He's probably who I would put on that list.
What matchup or matchups are you most looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Wyatt: Offensively, the matchup is the Titans offensive line and how they can hold up, not only in pass protection against Seattle, but also run blocking. The Titans have given up 50 sacks this year in 14 games. They're dealing with their second quarterback injured because of poor protection. How does the Titans O-line match up against Seattle's defensive front, that's one to watch on that side of the ball? Flipping it to Seahawks offense versus Titans defense, how do the Titans corners matchup and defend DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba? They have given up explosive plays this year on defense. They did a pretty good job against the Dolphins and that high-powered offense. They need to keep Seattle from being able to bust the big plays.
The Seahawks and Titans face off on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Titans.