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Thursday Night Lights

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This week you see a struggling Tennessee offense take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tennessee. In years past, the dominant Pittsburgh defense was one that you hated to see your players face. That isn’t the case today, and, frankly, without a healthy Troy Polamalu, there isn’t much to worry about. The fact is that Polamalu is not healthy and has been ruled out. While one player doesn’t make an entire team, Polamalu is one that you have to account for at all times because of his speed and quickness to the ball. That bodes well for the Tennessee passing game this week. That being said, let’s get to what the Titans will do when they have the ball.

WHEN TENNESSEE HAS THE BALL

It’s going to be a long day for the offensive line and for Chris Johnson. I expect that regardless of how many carries Johnson gets. He will struggle to break 50 yards rushing. I own Johnson in one dynasty league and have a love/hate relationship with him at the moment. I can’t get enough for him in a trade, and I’m not dropping him until he can’t physically play the game. I have come too far with him since 2008 when folks told me that LenDale White owned the job and Johnson wouldn’t be relevant. I laughed pretty hard that year. This year the tables have turned since Johnson isn’t the force of yesterday, last year, or should I say two years ago. He represents some value in space as a receiver with his speed, but the Steelers will take that away.

The offensive line looks like a unit that just got together. They don’t execute and are a much better pass blocking unit than anything. They will stall you for a couple of seconds at best, but they aren’t going to manhandle you. I look for Matt Hasselbeck to throw quick hitters most of the game because that’s the only thing he will be able to do without laying on his back looking into the sky. Kendall Wright has looked fantastic in the last three contests and has been targeted a whopping 30 times. In case you are wondering, that is near double the amount of targets over any other player. Jared Cook should have mild success because of his speed against linebackers. I expect that Nate Washington and Kenny Britt will get 10-15 looks between them. I hardly think the Titans will lie down, but I don’t expect more than 24 points from the offensive unit. Hasselbeck will have 200 yards and a pair of scores plus a few turnovers due to pressure.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

I was surprised to see that Rashard Mendenhall’s agility has come back this early on his road back. I think he looked pretty darn good, and I expect about 15 carries for him and a few targets in the passing game. The Titans run defense has pretty much been non-existent the last few weeks. He could really do some damage this week. I’d say he’s a must start.

There will be a few opportunities for the play action pass for Ben Roethlisberger. He will probably spread the ball around between Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller. Throw in a splash of Emmanuel Sanders, who does manage to get a few himself. I think that the Titans pass defense is pretty decent and manages to get a few stops. I expect when the game is on the line that Heath Miller will be called upon again. His chemistry with Roethlisberger in the red zone is unbelievable. Start all your Steelers except Sanders unless you are desperate, but there are better options available.

I see it as Steelers 23, Titans 17. I believe that it should be closer than most folks think.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR

The Arizona running game is without Ryan Williams and Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells. My instinct tells me that it will be William Powell with the most upside this week. Alfonso Smith doesn’t look like much to me and La'Rod Stephens-Howling is more of a third down back. Powell may be small in stature at 5-foot-8, but he has pretty good quickness and decent vision. A time-share will benefit no one, but I believe Powell will emerge at least until Wells comes back. This week’s game at home versus a Buffalo defense that ranks dead last in points given up to running backs (average of 16.8) in standard formats where one point is given per 20 yards. Powell could be started if an emergency arises.

Thanks for the read, folks!

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