49ers vs. Titans 2013 game preview: Tennessee looking to end 2-game skid

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

An opportunistic Titans team will face yet another tough opponent as part of a gauntlet stretch for the 3-3 club. The 49ers are looking to once again stake their claim as one of the best teams in the league.

No one would argue that the Tennessee Titans are one of the best teams in football at 3-3, but the team has been surprisingly good at times this season, with wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, and a narrow enough loss on the road to the Seattle Seahawks last week to inspire some confidence among the fanbase. With the Houston Texans down and the Indianapolis Colts just one game ahead at 4-2, the Titans, through six games, have a very real chance of winning the division.

Enter: The San Francisco 49ers, a team projected to be one of the best in the league going into the season. They got off to a slow start but are beginning to feel their oats. If the Titans can somehow pull off the upset, it would be a massive coup and confidence boost to a young, opportunistic team. The 49ers are simply looking to assert that they are, in fact, the best team in the NFL.

Meet the Titans

The Titans are missing Jake Locker. It's perhaps no surprise that the team is 0-2 since he went down with a hip injury in Week 4. Granted, Ryan Fitzpatrick has gone up against two of the league's better defenses in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seahawks, but just one touchdown pass to four interceptions won't cut it if the Titans have real playoff aspirations. Locker will be missing yet again, putting hopes of an upset in the hands of an opportunistic defense.

The Titans are second in the NFL (behind only Kansas City) with a plus-8 turnover differential on the season. A defense that seemingly lacked big names heading into the season has become one of the league's best under Jerry Gray and Gregg Williams. The team has forced 13 turnovers, and several players have emerged as budding stars, notably cornerback Alterraun Verner, who has four interceptions already this season.

Meet the 49ers

After suffering back-to-back losses in Weeks 2 and 3, the 49ers have reeled off three straight double-digit wins. Offensively, the running game has been outstanding. Frank Gore averaged 112 yards rushing per game over the stretch, and 49ers averaged 182 yards as a team. The rushing attack masked uneven play by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, though he played well in the win against the Arizona Cardinals last week, going 16-for-29 passing for 252 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

The 49ers' defense has also forced 13 turnovers on the season, and the unit's pass- and run-stopping capabilities both best the Titans on a per-attempt basis. The 49ers' paltry plus-2 turnover differential highlights how poorly the offense has taken care of the ball, however. Kaepernick has thrown five interceptions and lost four fumbles. If he is careless yet again, the Titans should have a puncher's chance of winning.

Local Takes: Titans

Titans blogger gunnelsj at Music City Miracles looked at the silver lining from last week's loss to the Seahawks, and determined that Ryan Fitzpatrick could improve greatly in coming weeks.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick could get better. Most, not all, of Fitzpatrick's poor plays were a result of bad throws not bad decisions. He looks more and more comfortable with what's happening on the field and hopefully is just getting the last of the rust off. He's making the right reads and throwing to the right receivers, it's just that the throws themselves are bad. This is more being extremely hopeful than finding a silver lining, but hey, a man has to dream.

Local Takes: 49ers

David Fucillo at Niners Nation discusses Jim Harbaugh and turnovers. Needless to say, the 49ers will need to be much more careful with the ball Sunday than they have been.

But this is still a serious point. The 49ers defense has forced eight turnovers the last two weeks, and much like we saw in 2011, it is key to setting up the offense in prime field position. The 49ers have not exactly impressed in the giveaway department. They are tied for eighth in the NFL in terms of most giveaways. They are currently second in the NFC in fumbles lost, and sixth in interceptions. They've cleaned it up a bit the last two weeks, but that will be a key this weekend. It's a key every weekend, but even more so given the Titans ability to force turnovers.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Niners Nation and Music City Miracles, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@TitansMCM

@NinersNation

@jwyattsports -- Titans beat writer

@mattbarrows -- 49ers beat writer

Prediction

It helps that the Titans are playing at home, but the team's success this season has been too reliant on turnovers. The 49ers like to take the ball away just as much as they like to give it, and Fitzpatrick hasn't been as good a caretaker of the ball as Locker was. The 49ers will win on the road, and cover.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Titans 17

Odds

The 49ers are favored from 4-5 points, depending on which sports book you consult over at OddsShark.com.

Next Week

The 49ers will be on the road again to play the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday. The Titans will be take their bye week before taking on the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Stadium on Nov. 3.

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