Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via Zoom. This week it was Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. I also scanned the Tennessee media websites and the Titans website to see what else Tennessee players and coaches are saying about this week's matchup with the Lions.
Here's what they had to say:
1. Vrabel told the Tennessee media this week that the Titans are preparing for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to play Sunday. Vrabel said he had a lot of respect for Stafford's toughness, and expects him to be out there until he's told he won't be.
2. It's pretty interesting how well Vrabel knows Detroit's offensive line. He was coaching at Ohio State when Taylor Decker was there. He got to know Frank Ragnow trying to recruit him to Ohio State. Vrabel was in Houston when Oday Aboushi was with the Texans. He said he didn't know Jonah Jackson personally, but said he looks to be playing well for a rookie. He also evaluated Tyrell Crosby and Matt Nelson in the draft process.
"I feel like I know this offensive line," Vrabel said. "Pretty unique to have a personal relationship at some level with a handful of those guys, and they all seem to be working well as a unit."
3. Titans players don't have to be reminded how big this week is and what this week's game vs. Detroit means for their playoff hopes in the AFC. A win against Detroit would be huge for the Titans' chances at their first AFC South title since 2008. The Titans and Colts are tied at 9-4, but the Titans currently own the tiebreaker based on division record. The Titans are 4-1 against the division, while the Colts are 2-2.
4. The Lions hired Chris Spielman Tuesday to be an advisor to owner Sheila Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood. Asked about Spielman, Vrabel thinks he'll do just fine in Detroit's front office.
He said he got to know Spielman and his family as a young player in the league, and said Spielman has passion and love for the game. Vrabel said whatever the Lions ask Spielman to do, he will do it to the best of his ability, will grind through it and will be diligent with whatever role they ask him to do.
5. Titans running back Derrick Henry has 1,532 yards on the season and could become the eighth 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history with a strong finish down the stretch.
"I just think you have to look at the situation and see what is going on, understand how excited the players are for Derrick, and the offensive line," Vrabel told tennesseetitans.com this week.
"I think they feel as much a part of what he does, like it's them doing it. And I think that's great for our psyche, and our confidence, and everything that we're doing. But also being smart with where he is at physically, and where everybody is at physically."
6. The Titans' defense held Jacksonville to a 35.7 percent conversion rate on third down (5-of-14) last week in a win, which was a big improvement over the previous week against Cleveland, who converted on 62.5 percent of their third-down tries (10-of-16). On the year, Tennessee's defense ranks 32nd on third down, allowing conversions 52.2 percent of the time.
"Once you can get off the field on third down, it changes the whole game," Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler told the Tennessean. "You can't really win a game if you're not getting off the field on third down. We won the last game, but we put emphasis on getting off the field on third down, and it was a big change."