Editor Note: This Titan Sized Guest Spot submission comes from Colin Lahey. Lahey is a die-hard Titans fan from Brantford, Ontario (Canada). Brantford is an estimated 700 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee.
January 10, 2009.
The last time the Tennessee Titans played a game in the NFL postseason. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, unless of course, you’re a Titans fan.
So, what haven’t the Titans done over the past four seasons that made them so successful in 2008 (13-3 record)? They haven’t had a winning record against their own division. Mark my words: the 2013 season will be no different. For the Titans, the key to success lies in the AFC South. A winning divisional record and they’ll make the playoffs. .500 or worse and they’re out—again.
Now on paper, it doesn’t sound like an insurmountable task (4-2). Let’s examine it a little closer. The most logical way to project a 4-2 record in the AFC South is a split with both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts. Furthermore, the Titans need two wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars won two games in 2012, both against divisional opponents (Titans and Colts). They’ll likely only win three or four games this year. It’s plain and simple: Playoff teams can’t and don’t lose to teams that only win a handful of games each year, even if they are tough divisional opponents. Before you correct me, I know, the Colts made the playoffs last year, but you know what I’m saying.
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts had a great 2012 season. In my opinion, the Colts overachieved as much as the Titans underachieved in 2012. I’m not using the term “overachieved” to take anything away from what they did last season but simply to stress the point that they will crash back down to earth this season. The Colts are an average football team, not a great football team. I’ve got them as an 8-8 team at best this year, however, I think it’s more likely they’ll go 7-9 or even 6-10
By far, the toughest part of a 4-2 divisional record is having to play the Texans, twice. The Texans are a great football team. They’ve had a relatively quiet offseason. Coupled with the fact that the Titans have gone out and upgraded their offensive line, should make it more difficult for J.J. Watt to impose his will on the Titans offense and quarterback Jake Locker.
I’m taking the Titans to split games with the Texans and Colts and steal both games away from the Jaguars for a 4-2 divisional record.
AFC WEST and NFC WEST
The Titans strength of schedule this season is 23rd and I don’t think that drawing the AFC West and NFC West matchups are necessarily all that bad.
Before you jump all the way down my throat, here’s why: The Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are all likely playoff teams but neither division offers much more that isn’t beatable on a weekly basis. I’ve got the Titans going 2-2 against both divisions with wins over the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Their losses come against the Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos and San Diego Chargers.
I know what you’re thinking, “WTF? I’ve got the Titans going 4-2 in the AFC South and I’m not taking them to beat the Chargers?” Sorry—history is tough to argue.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS and NEW YORK JETS
Call me crazy, but I don’t see the Steelers as a legitimate contender in the AFC again this year. I especially love where both matchups fall in the season schedule. I expect the Steelers to struggle scoring points early in the year without familiar offensive weapons. By Week 4, the Jets will likely have self-destructed and given up on Mark Sanchez in favor Geno Smith. If the Steelers game was later in the season, I would have chalked it up as a loss, but because of the Week 1 matchup (even on the road), I’m going with Titans wins against both of these AFC rivals.
Last season was a tough year for the Titans and their fans. Another 6-10 record will surely mean a new coach and likely drafting another young quarterback talent to try and start the rebuilding process over again.
All of the Titans’ eggs are in Locker’s basket. He’s got the 2013 season to prove he’s an elite talent. The offseason moves and draft-day decisions clearly were an attempt to give him every chance possible to succeed. In 2012, the Titans scored an average of 20.6 points per game and allowed a league worst average of 29.4 points per game. I would have preferred a more balanced approach, adding pieces to both side of the ball, but I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
The defense showed glimpses of decent play in 2012. A few key additions along with some veteran leadership should help bring the total yards and points allowed this season under check. In contrast, I’m expecting big things out of the offense. Anything less than a top-10 offense in both rushing and passing yardage will be a big disappointment and likely mean another season out of the playoffs.
For those of you who did the math, I’ve got the Titans going 10-6 in 2013 and making the playoffs. It’s not time to start planning the Super Bowl parade just yet, but if the Titans stay healthy and some of the offseason moves payoff, I think it’s realistic for Titans fans to keep the first weekend in January free.