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Titans vs Panthers: Keys to victory

The paths of two aspiring playoff contenders collide on Sunday as the Tennessee Titans (5-2) play host to the Carolina Panthers (4-3). The Titans will be seeking their third win in a row as they attempt to keep pace with the Colts and the Jags in the highly competitive AFC South. With the Colts entertaining the explosive Patriots in this week’s highly anticipated showdown and the Jaguars traveling to New Orleans to play the resurgent Saints, a win over Carolina would provide the Titans with an excellent opportunity to gain ground in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.
To defeat the Carolina Panthers, the Titans need to accomplish the following three objectives:
Vince Young needs a breakout performance
Whether it is due to injury, the slippery hands of the Titans’ wide receivers, or even the infamous Madden Curse, Vince Young’s second NFL campaign has been a forgettable one thus far. Through the first seven games of the season, Young has only thrown 3 touchdown passes while tossing 6 interceptions to Titans’ opponents. Last season, Young thrived while running the football, rushing for 7 touchdowns and averaging close to seven yards per carry. This season, Young has only rushed for 1 touchdown while averaging only three and a half yards per run.
It is inevitable that at some point during the year, Vince Young will have the type of performance that made him the runaway selection for the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2006. This week, the Titans face a Carolina defensive unit that has failed miserably at sacking opposing quarterbacks while also ranking in the league’s bottom half of teams against the pass. If the Titans’ receivers can just hold on to the football, Vince Young should have a solid chance to attain the breakout performance that everyone has been waiting for.
Continue to make life miserable for David Carr
The Titans should be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to face old foe/whipping boy David Carr. During his tumultuous career with the Houston Texans, Carr faced the Titans ten times, compiling an abysmal 2-8 record while being sacked on thirty-three occasions. Carr has thrown more interceptions to Titan defenders (12) than to any other team in the NFL. The colors of Carr’s uniform may have changed but the Titans are hoping to continue their dominance over the former #1 overall selection of the 2002 NFL Draft.
Contain Carolina’s diminutive duo
Despite their small stature, Steve Smith (5’9”) and DeAngelo Williams (5’9”) are the two biggest threats to the Titans’ defense this week. Smith is widely renowned as one of the league’s best receivers and most explosive playmakers, accounting for 514 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns this season. Williams, a speedy second year running back out of the University of Memphis, is averaging over five yards per rushing attempt and is also capable of breaking the long one. Preventing Smith and Williams from making big plays will be a big priority for the Titans’ defense on Sunday.