It's almost gamed everyone! To get you ready for Sunday, we sat down with fellow 49ers fan and Editor of Titans Wire, Kyle Madson, to learn more about this Titans team and try and get an idea of how the game may go. Read on to see what we asked and what he thought!
Mariota hasn't looked 100% after the surgeries and rehab from this off-season. Do you think he's healthy enough to be able to exploit the Niner defense and how would their record look if he was healthy?
Mariota sure hasn't looked healthy enough all season to really exploit anyone, although I'm not certain health is his main issue. He's throwing a lot off his back foot and looks uncomfortable in the pocket. He also has a habit of throwing passes right between defenders' numbers, which is not that good of a habit for a quarterback to have, FYI. There are myriad issues with Mariota this season, some of which are health-based. But I think the biggest issue is the Titans offense isn't adjusting to the league figuring it out, and Mariota not being on the same page with essentially an entirely new receiving corps. There were a lot of kinks to work out this season, and they just haven't been able to do that through 13 games. Their record might be one game better if Mariota had been healthy all year. Matt Cassel started against the Dolphins, and Tennessee would've won that game if Mariota was playing. Aside from that though, this offense is what it is, and I don't expect them to suddenly break out in Santa Clara.
Rishard Matthews has been dealing with a hamstring injury lately. How does his injury affect the team and can the other WRs step in for him
Matthews' injury hurt the Titans because he's the receiver Mariota is most familiar with. Rookie Taywan Taylor doesn't play enough to establish a rapport with the quarterback, and Corey Davis was out for virtually all of training camp and then he was injured for Weeks 2-7. That leaves an aging Eric Decker to be the team's go-to weapon on the perimeter, which isn't awesome in 2017. Matthews' absence also allows defenses to key on tight end Delanie Walker. When Matthews is out, Walker has three and four guys around him at all times, and this offense isn't going to succeed when Walker can't get loose.
Garoppolo seems to have a knack for picking apart the middle of defenses and finding weakspots. Where do you think he'd attack the Titans secondary and how do you think they will do?
I expect the 49ers to spread the Titans out and go at LeShaun Sims and Brice McCain. Sims is a big, physical corner, but he can get beat by faster guys like Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor. McCain is just not that good of a player. Tennessee's pass rush has been dynamite with 23 sacks in their last four games, so I imagine the 49ers will do a lot of quick stuff in the passing game and exploit those corners from the back end of the Tennessee depth chart.
Is Mularkey in danger of losing his job given the team’s struggles?
If they lose out, absolutely. However, I think the more likely scenario is they lose two of their next three and the team fires offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie first. There were enough injuries and inconsistent play this season that the front office may be willing to give Mularkey another season with a revamped roster. It wouldn't be a shock if the team looked to go in another direction if this team misses the playoffs though. Their regression this year isn't something general manager Jon Robinson, who has a Patriots background, will tolerate very much of.
What players for the 49ers do you see as the biggest assets to the team and if you could pick any player from the Niners to play for the Titans, who would you pick? Alternatively is there any players on the Titans that you feel would instantly upgrade the Niners?
Oh, man. I love Reuben Foster. Carlos Hyde and Trent Taylor are also tremendous. Foster is a guy I wrote about the Titans possibly drafting. The same goes for George Kittle and Ahkello Witherspoon. I think all three of those rookies are going to be really excellent players. Picking one 49er to put on the Titans though, it would have to be Foster. A player like him would turn this very good Titans defense into an elite unit. Wesley Woodyard has been a Pro Bowl level player for the Titans, but if you put Foster alongside him, they'd be one of the league's best linebacker duos.
There are several Titans who would make the 49ers better. Jurrell Casey would be a nice piece at the 3-tech. Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews would both be huge upgrades for the 49ers offense, but I think they'd love to have is safety Kevin Byard. Byard is playing at an All-Pro level this year, and his ability to play that Earl Thomas, single-high role at a elite level would be a ton of fun to watch in the back end of the 49ers secondary.