How do Tennessee Titans stack up in AFC South race?

Tennessee Titans (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

With offseason moves nearly complete and training camp right around the corner, now is the time for many to make predictions on how each team will fare in the 2022 season. For the Tennessee Titans, a team whose roster, overall, does not drastically different than it was in 2021, it is going to be an uphill battle to make the Super Bowl in a loaded AFC.

They can at least be thankful that they are playing in one of the conference’s weaker divisions, the AFC South. There can be little doubt that they will finish in one of the top two spots, as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans are each a mess and should get nowhere near playoff football.

That leaves the Indianapolis Colts, a team that honestly, got much better than they were in 2021. Many Tennessee Titans fans are optimistic about their chances to win the division for the third straight year, but a deep dive should show you that it will be a tough road to the division crown.

Tennessee Titans’ playoff chances may rest on winning AFC South

Remember the 2020 season, and how it literally came down to the last week for the Titans to clinch the AFC South? It might be that way again this year, and with that in mind, they have to win it if they want a chance to make the playoffs.

Look at teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, the entirety of the AFC West, the Buffalo Bills, and even the Baltimore Ravens. The only team on that list that isn’t a “safer” bet to make the playoffs than the Tennessee Titans right now is the Ravens.

Even if the Bengals and Bills win their divisions easily, teams like the Ravens and the rest of the AFC West will make it difficult for the Titans or Colts to create breathing in the AFC Wild Card race.

As always, the easiest path to the playoffs is to win your division and that means going through the Indianapolis Colts again this year. Despite recent history, when you look at both rosters, they are extremely close in terms of overall talent.

If we start at quarterback, Ryan Tannehill has not shown that he can get the Titans over the top, and while Matt Ryan was one of the best in the league in his prime, he has clearly regressed due to age. It is fair to say that neither team really has the edge over the other at this position.

The rest of the offenses for both teams are actually really similar, featuring maybe the best two running backs in the game, and solid receivers that don’t really have a proven WR1 among them. The offensive lines are pretty similar too, as both teams have questions at left tackle, and while the Colts are certainly stronger at left guard, the Titans are stronger at right guard.

Although Titans fans are rightfully encouraged by him, there is also a huge question of how Dillon Radunz will turn out at right tackle, and Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly are certainly better at their positions than Nate Davis and Ben Jones are at theirs. The Colts probably have the edge on offensive line.

The only position on either offense that clearly differs is tight end, as even on an offense in which he was clearly splitting targets, Austin Hooper was as productive as Mo Alie-Cox was as the number one option. So knowing that the Titans have a clear edge at tight end, it is fair to say that both team’s offenses are about even.

On defense, we already know the Tennessee Titans have a group that is just about championship-caliber. The Colts themselves are honestly not too far behind.

Both have stout play up the middle, with each boasting one of the best interior defensive linemen, Jeffery Simmons and DeForest Buckner. Where they both differ is on the edges, as the Titans have two edge rushers who can consistently bring the heat, and while Yannick Ngakoue certainly can do that for the Colts, Kwity Paye leaves a little to be desired in that regard.

Because of that, the Titans get the slight edge (no pun intended) on the defensive line.

Looking at the linebackers, there really is no question, that the Colts have the clear edge there. Zach Cunningham is underrated, and David Long is up-and-coming in his own right, but they just cannot compete with Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke, at least at this point in time.

Looking at the secondary, there is a lot to dissect. The Titans clearly are better at safety, with Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker being one of the very best duos in the NFL.

Khari Willis unexpectedly retiring widens the gap even more between the two teams, as Julian Blackmon and Rodney McLeod are what the Colts have to work with. This is another area in which the Titans clearly have them beaten.

As for the cornerback groups, the best player on either team is Kenny Moore, but one asterisk on that is that he is a slot cornerback. Their best outside cornerback is Stefone Gilmore, and while he certainly demands respect and rightfully so, he just may not be quite what he once was, which certainly would still make him a very good cornerback.

Other than that, the Colts do not really have much in their secondary.

The Titans do not have a great cornerback group, at least based on what has been proven, but Kristian Fulton had a great sophomore season, and he honestly is much better than people give him credit for. He is unknown at this point, but Caleb Farley has a huge chance to break out, and Elijah Molden is someone to feel good about in the slot, even if he is not as good as Moore.

The secondaries for both teams are honestly really similar right now in terms of overall talent and proven ability. However, the upside clearly favors the Tennessee Titans and if Farley pans out then we might be having a different conversation in a few months.

As far as the head coaches go, both are very well-coached. Mike Vrabel deservedly won Coach of the Year in 2021, and under Frank Reich, the Colts have proven that they can punch over their weight.

The Colts did not close out many games last year against the elite teams last year, but with a better quarterback and overall team, they probably can do that once or twice more than in 2021. In an AFC that is historically stacked, they should be capable of winning one or two more games than they did last year.

The Tennessee Titans ended up winning the AFC South in 2021 by a decisive amount, but that may just not be the case this year. Both teams are nearly equally talented and well-coached, and being in the same division, they will have very similar schedules.

If you are a fan of either team, you should feel a bit worried about the first half of the season because both of their games fall in the first two months of the season. A slow start for either team could put them seriously behind in the AFC South race. If these teams both need to win the division to make the postseason this year, then those are going to be nerve-wracking matchups.

Buckle up folks, it is probably going to be a bloodbath between these two teams.