Two of the NFL's most tough competetors will face off this Sunday's game. Panthers WR Steve Smith is famous for his run-ins with ex-Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall, and Titans CB Cortland Finnegan is equally famous for his run-ins with Texans WR Andre Johnson. This week these 2 explosive players will face off against one another, so will it just be an thrilling matchup, or will it turn into an explosion of penalty flags?
Finnegan loves to talk, trying to provoke a reaction from the WR he's covering, and WR Steve Smith takes nothing from anyone, even his own teammates. This explosive mixture could play right into Finnegan's hands. Steve Smith is by far the Panthers best deep threat, and Panthers QB Cam Newton is the leading deep passer. If Finnegan can provoke Smith into losing his temper, and getting ejected for fighting, then that takes away almost 20% of the Panthers offense. The Panthers other WR's Naanee and LaFell are at best only average deep threats, and while their 2 TE's (Olsen and Shockey) can go deep well for TE's, their no Steve Smith.
The Titans have 2 other very good CB's in Jason McCourty (ProFootballFocus.com ranks McCourty as the 2nd best CB from the 2009 draft), and Alterraun Verner, who can easily cover Naanee and LeFell. FS Michael Griffin seem like he's back to the level of his 2009 Pro Bowl season. The Titans have 2 experienced SS's Jordan Babineaux (who's started the last few games), and Chis Hope, who has been injured, and no longer plays at his 2009 Pro Bowl level.
On the other hand, the Titans WR's are over matched by the speed of the Panthers CB's (all running a 4.43-40 or lower), The 3 top Titans WR's Nate Washington (36 catches), Lavelle Hawkins (22 catches) and Damian Williams (18 catches) run in the mid to high 4.5's. Only WR's Donnie Avery (4.34-40, 0 catches) and returner Marc Mariani (8 catches) can match the speed of the Panthers CB's. Both Titans TE's Jared Cook (4.50-40, 19 catches) and Craig Stevens (4.59-40, 6 catches) have speed, but the Panthers S's Charles Godfrey (4.39-40) and Sherrod Martin (4.49-40) have the speed to match the TE's, but the Panthers LB's don't. The Panthers will have loads of problems covering the Titans RB's, Chris Johnson (4.24-40, 31 catches) and Javon Ringer (17 catches), but fortunately Johnson's hands aren't that good. However, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck is usually good for 1 or 2 way off target, wobbling, wounded duck type passes a game, that might be picked off.
Though the Titans have generally been good against the run, the Bengals ran well against then last week. The Titans rotate their D-Linemen, so fatigue shouldn't be a problem. DT Karl Klug (6-3, 275) has replaced Jason Jones (6-5, 276) who's moved to DE, and Klug leads the Titans with 3 sacks.