Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Titans game Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:
Fitz and history
Larry Fitzgerald is still playing great football. He's still running great routes, making big catches, grinding out YAC while mixing it up from the slot position. He has more receiving yards from the slot this season than any player in football. Now he's poised to surpass Randy Moss for third in NFL history in receiving yards, needing just 26 Sunday to do so. Fitz is under contract for 2018, and whether or not he plays next season, he remains as one of the best in the league in 2017 – and watching him play should be appreciated however many more times he takes the field.
Unplugging power football
The Titans like to run the ball. A lot. DeMarco Murray. Derrick Henry. Marcus Mariota. That's what they do, with Russ Grimm coaching the offensive line. As in most games, the outcome starts with winning up front. The Cardinals did that against Jacksonville, locking down Leonard Fournette. They weren't quite as stout against the Rams, although Todd Gurley only had 74 yards (unfortunately he got 84 receiving, many on short passes he turned into big gains.) The Titans' passing game isn't exactly intimidating. Slowing down the ground game will go a long way for the Cardinals' hopes of winning.
The Titans don't have a lot of flashy defensive names, but they do have 12 sacks in the last two games. Their pass rush has been solid. The good news for the Cardinals? Blaine Gabbert is mobile back there. The bad news? Gabbert was still sacked seven times last week. Potential harder news is the elbow issue left tackle Jared Veldheer is dealing with, which could put rookie Will Holden in play on Gabbert's blind side. Running the ball is crucial – especially finding some production against the Titans' third-ranked run defense – but the Cards will have to pass, and they have to find some time for Gabbert to do so.
The Titans are 8-4 and that's a good record. No way to dispute that, and as Bill Parcells liked to say, you are what your record says you are. But it's been a strange trip to get to 8-4, including the fact Tennessee has somehow carved that record out of a season in which they have been outscored by 16 points total. That's hard to do. Quarterback Marcus Mariota only has 10 touchdown passes compared to 12 interceptions. In games they have lost, it has gone really bad. There are weaknesses the Cardinals can attack, especially with the Titans coming cross country for a game.
Affecting the AFC South
The Titans are officially in first place in their division, there in part because the Cardinals beat the Jaguars two weeks ago. Now the Titans and Jags are tied in the standings – Tennessee has the tiebreak with a head-to-head win – but the Cards could again impact the race one way or the other. Bruce Arians has had great success against the AFC South since coaching the Cardinals. He'd like to complete this year's AFCS tour with a 3-1 record.