Which team will come out on top in London?
The Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers face off in Wembley Stadium on Sunday morning. It'll be the second straight Sunday that the NFL will be on display in London after the Seahawks beat up the Raiders last week. This will be the first time for Tennessee to play overseas, while the Chargers last took the field in Europe back in 2008 when they lost 37-32 to the Saints. In that one, Drew Brees outdueled Philip Rivers, who got a solid effort from LaDainian Tomlinson on the ground.
Tennessee beat the Philadelphia Eagles back in Week 4 to move to 3-1 on the season. Since then, the Titans have lost to the Bills and Ravens, putting up just 12 points in the process. The Titans surrendered 11 sacks to Baltimore and mustered only 106 yards of total offense. Tennessee has struggled to find a consistent run game with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, and the Titans' weapons on the outside are highly mediocre and have failed to take the next step. The Titans' defense has allowed only two opponents to score more than 21 points, so they are competitive in most contests despite the offensive deficiencies. Linebacker Derrick Morgan is expected to miss a few weeks and Will Compton is dealing with an injury as well, but the hope is that Wesley Woodyard could return on Sunday.
The Chargers are currently on a three-game winning streak, beating the 49ers, Raiders and Browns. Los Angeles is using a very good run game, with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler keeping teams honest. Philip Rivers has not had to throw the ball a ton for the most part as of late. The defense has also been better the last two games, holding opponents to just 24 points combined. The Chargers have been very good against the run, with the Rams being the only opponent to have sustained success on the ground.
The last time these two teams met was in 2016, when the San Diego Chargers won 43-35 over the Titans. The Chargers racked up 208 rushing yards and forced three turnovers in the victory.
Tennessee vs. Los Angeles (London)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Spread: Chargers -6.5
Three Things to Watch
As mentioned above, this will be Tennessee's first game in London. Last year we saw the Ravens, Cardinals and Browns all play their first game overseas, and they all lost by a combined score of 110-23. The key will be how the Titans handle the time change and how early they go to Europe. The Raiders last week treated it like any other road trip and lost handily, 27-3 to the Seahawks. The time difference is a factor and should be treated as such. There aren't a ton of players on the Chargers who were around back in 2008 when they made their first trip, so we'll see how they handle it. Both of these squads have their bye week coming up afterwards, so there shouldn't be a focus issue for either in this one. Los Angeles is certainly playing better then Tennessee entering the game, though.
2. Run, run and run it again
The team that is able to get its ground game going is going to have a leg up. The Chargers duo of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler averages 5.5 yards per carry, consistently moving the chains and tiring out the defense. The two have combined for 44 catches as well, which helps when Philip Rivers is under pressure. Gordon alone has three 20-plus-yard catches. Tennessee's defense has allowed 123.2 yards per game on the ground. The Texans and Bills were able to put up over 140 yards rushing apiece on the Titans.
On the opposite side, you have Tennessee, which is trying to figure out the best way to use Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. In theory, they provide a solid "Thunder and Lightning" dynamic, but neither has performed like it, averaging a combined 3.2 yards per carry. Lewis has one of the team's two rushing touchdowns with the other coming from Marcus Mariota. Henry in particular has been a bust with no touchdowns and no rushes of 20 yards or more yet this season. The Chargers have clamped down on the run even without the injured Joey Bosa.
3. Play from ahead
The last time the Titans were playing with a lead was when they were up 12-10 late in the game against the Bills in Buffalo on Oct. 7. Buffalo went down and kicked a field goal to win with no time left on the clock, but Tennessee was in the contest until the end because the Bills aren't very explosive. If Tennessee can keep this one in the high teens or low 20s, then maybe the Titans have a shot. Somehow they were able to put up 26 on the Eagles defense at home way back in Week 4. That was Marcus Mariota's best game, a performance that he has not been able to match since then. He threw for 327 yards against the Eagles and has put up 203 in the two contests since. The pressure is on the Titans defense to hold the Chargers down, because there is no margin for error with this offense.
Weird things occasionally happen when the NFL takes its product overseas, although in last year's four games in London, it seemed like the better team won for the most part. Tennessee is licking its wounds literally and figuratively after the beatdown the Titans took at the hands of the Ravens. The Chargers are the better of the two teams and shouldn't have much of an issue slowing down the Tennessee offense. If Gordon and Ekeler can keep rolling on the ground, then this one will be a comfortable victory for LA. The Titans may dig into their bag of tricks to score, but it won't be enough.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Titans 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.