The 5-3 New Orleans Saints take on the 7-2 Tennessee Titans on the road on Sunday afternoon in a key out of conference battle for both teams.
New Orleans tries to right the ship and keep in striking distance in the NFC South after having a three-game winning streak snapped in a loss to Atlanta last week. Tennessee is on a five-game winning streak and looks to keep a stranglehold on the AFC South.
This is the 16th all-time meeting between the two franchises, which includes when the Titans were the Houston Oilers from 1960 to 1996. The Saints have a 6-8-1 record against the Titans/Oilers.
Oddly, New Orleans has a 2-4 record against them at home, but own a 4-2-1 road record against them. The Saints are 2-4 against the Titans since they relocated to Tennessee, but 2-1 against them on the road.
Tennessee has won five of the last seven meetings between these teams dating back to 1996. The Saints are 2-2 against the Titans since Sean Payton arrived as head coach in 2006, having won two of the last three contests.
FIRST MEETING VS. OILERS
The first meeting between these teams took place on October 3, 1971, in the Houston Astrodome. New Orleans jumped to a quick lead on a 63-yard touchdown pass from rookie QB Archie Manning to WR Danny Abramowicz. It was one of only eight completions on the day for the Saints, who managed 184 rushing yards.
Houston narrowed the Saints lead to 7-3 by the end of the first quarter. That would be the end of the scoring until the final quarter, as both defenses recorded a combined six sacks and forced five turnovers.
New Orleans pulled ahead 10-3, on a fourth quarter field goal. Houston tied the game on a 70-yard touchdown strike from QB Charley Johnson to WR Charlie Joiner. The Oilers then took their first lead of the day, going ahead 13-10 with a field goal. Saints K Charlie Durkee matched the score with a late field goal to salvage a 13-13 tie.
FIRST GAME VS. TITANS
Houston relocated their franchise to Nashville after the 1996 season. They played as the Tennessee Oilers for the next two years until changing to the Titans in 1999. The Titans had great luck with the name change, advancing to their only Super Bowl appearance in 1999.
New Orleans gave the eventual AFC champion everything they could handle during a week six game in the Superdome. The Saints got 354 yards passing from QB Billy Joe Tolliver and held a 10-0 halftime lead.
Tennessee climbed back into the game behind 155 yards from RB Eddie George and four forced turnovers from their defense. Donald Mitchell returned a Tolliver interception for a fourth quarter touchdown to give the Titans a 24-21 come from behind win.
These teams last met on December 22, 2019 in Tennessee. The Titans took a 14-0 first quarter lead on the strength of big plays from WR A.J. Brown and TE Jonnu Smith. New Orleans remained patient and fought back, closing to 14-10 at halftime with a 61-yard touchdown pass from QB Drew Brees to TE Jared Cook.
Saints RB Alvin Kamara, who had 110 all-purpose yards in the game, scored twice in the third quarter to put his team up 24-14. Brees had 279 yards and three touchdowns, with a second scoring toss to Cook answering a Tennessee touchdown for a 31-21 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, who had 272 yards passing of his own, hit WR Tajae Sharpe for a score that narrowed the New Orleans lead to 31-28 midway through the fourth quarter. Brees answered with a 2-yard touchdown pass to WR Michael Thomas to clinch a 38-28 win.
Thomas, who had 12 receptions for 136 yards in the game, broke a 17-year NFL record for receptions in a season with that score. He led the league with 1,725 receiving yards in 2019 on an NFL-record 149 receptions.
This could be an extremely physical, and sometimes ugly, battle between two of the NFL's bullies. Kamara and Tennessee RB Derrick Henry, the league's best two running backs, are out with injuries.
New Orleans is starting QB Trevor Siemian after a season-ending knee injury to QB Jameis Winston. The Saints are also without starting LT Terron Armstead for an offense that hasn't had WR Michael Thomas all season.
The Titans are banged up defensively and might be without a few starters of their own. New Orleans will look to establish control of the line of scrimmage against a big and physical Titans defensive line. Expect them to roll Siemian away from pressure and get the ball out of his hands quickly to a struggling receiving corps.
Defensively, the Saints must prevent the Titans from establishing balance against their top-ranked run defense. They’ll also need to apply consistent pressure on Ryan Tannehill to prevent him from hitting wideouts A J. Brown and Julio Jones for big plays.
If New Orleans can control the trenches on both sides of the ball I expect them to win the field position battle and for their talented secondary to rebound after a poor outing last week.
SAINTS 19 TITANS 16