The Tennessee Titans are 7-4 and are not as bad as many believe.
Last December, Tennessee Titans fans experienced true, unfettered excitement for the first time in nearly a decade. Thanks to a walk-off 53-yard field goal in well-below freezing Kansas City temperatures by Ryan Succop, the Titans defeated the Chiefs 19-17.
Though they won the game, it certainly was not pretty for the Titans. Receiver Tyreek Hill sprinted past the defense for a 68 yard touchdown on the Chiefs’ first offensive drive of the game, quarterback Marcus Mariota recorded a QBR under 70, and Succop’s field goal was only needed because the offense miserably failed to convert a go-ahead two-point play on their previous drive.
Yet, despite the fact that the Titans played a mostly ugly game, fans were jubilant. It seemed that the Titans were headed for their first division title since 2008, and they were on a roll. Mariota was the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Month, the “exotic smashmouth” rushing attack was in full force, and the defense’s front seven was suffocating opponents’ rushing attacks.
Following their 20-16 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, their first ever at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Titans find themselves in a similar situation. They have won five of their last six games, cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan have transformed the secondary, and the running game showed signs of life in the second half.
However, unlike last season, fans do not seem to be collectively excited. There have been calls to fire members of the coaching staff, questions as to whether Mariota will ever come out of the slump he is currently in, and concerns that the team simply is not playing up to their potential.
The key difference between the two situations, this season and last, is the quality of opponents the Titans have defeated. In 2016, the Titans beat five teams that eventually earned playoff berths. Three of them played in the second round of the postseason. One played on Championship Sunday.
This season, the majority of the Titans’ wins have not been against quality opponents. Only one of the six teams the Titans have defeated (Jacksonville) would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Only two (Jacksonville and Seattle) even have winning records.
While winning consistently against inferior competition should be taken with a grain of salt, it absolutely does not discount any of the Titans’ accomplishments to this point in the season. They are 7-4, sit atop the AFC South, and have an incredibly favorable schedule down the stretch.
Aside from the surging Los Angeles Rams and a rematch against the Jaguars in Nashville, the Titans play only teams with losing records for the remainder of the season. One of their future opponents, the San Francisco 49ers, have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Instead of wagging their fingers and shouting criticisms, Titans fans should be elated by the fact that their team always gets the job done against inferior competition. After all, it was less than two years ago when the Titans lost NINE GAMES against teams that ultimately missed the playoffs.
Have the wins been pretty? No. Have some of the games been way too close? Absolutely. Has Mariota looked good? Nope. Is the running game anywhere close to being as dominant as they were last season? Definitely not.
But the Titans have taken care of business week-in and week-out nonetheless. They have repeatedly overcome adversity, played outstanding complementary football, and consistently have the bigger number on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
As the old adage says, “Good teams find ways to win games.” After years of finding ways to lose games in the most catastrophic ways (see: Titans vs. Browns, 2014), the Titans have been finding ways to win them. In the eyes of just about anyone, that makes them a good football team.