Can the Tennessee Titans regain respectability in the AFC South?

Will the Tennessee Titans compete for the AFC South in 2024?
Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

They were once the top dog in the division, and they had the upper hand for the most part when it came to their AFC South rivals. Suddenly, the team dropped off in a big way in 2022. Those issues continued into this past season, and a 6-11 showing cost head coach Mike Vrabel his job.

The Tennessee Titans now have a new head coach, and a lot of new faces—most notably on the offensive side of the ball. They also face an uphill battle when it comes to regaining their winning ways when it comes to facing the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Titans’ recent division record is less than memorable

The numbers are startling. Vrabel led the Titans for six seasons. That’s tied with Bum Phillips for the second-longest tenure for a head coach with the franchise behind only Jeff Fisher. The team made three straight trips to the playoffs from 2019-21, won the AFC South in 2020 and ’21, and were the top seed in the conference in 2021. There was the impressive playoff run in 2019, when the 9-7 Titans reached the AFC title game, but fell at Kansas City to the eventual Super Bowl LIV champion Chiefs.

The numbers are startling. In his first four seasons with the franchise, Vrabel owned a 41-24 regular-season record, including a 16-8 record vs. their AFC South rivals. The Titans got off to a 7-3 start in 2022, and was perfect within the division (3-0).

What on Earth happened? Tennessee dropped its final seven games that season, then finished 6-11 in 2023. They were the only team in the AFC South to finish below .500 this past season, and their 6-18 record in their last 24 contests includes a combined eight losses to the Texans, Colts and Jaguars. The Titans closed out the Vrabel Era by beating Jacksonville, 28-20, which helped keep the Jaguars out of the playoffs.

The key to Tennessee rebounding vs. its AFC South rivals is?

Back to the problem at hand. Since that 7-3 start in 2022, the Titans are 0-3 vs. the Texans, 0-2 vs. the Colts, and 1-3 vs. the Jaguars. New head coach Brian Callahan has a lot of new weapons on offense (Tony Pollard, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd), but the key will be keeping quarterback Will Levis out of harm’s way.

In 2023, Tennessee surrendered 64 sacks in 17 contests. All told, 24 of those QB traps came in the six games vs. their AFC South neighbors. More than half (13) came in the combined two losses to the Texans.

Houston added Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry this offseason. The Colts used a first-round pick on UCLA pass rusher Laiatu Latu. Jacksonville has Josh Allen and added veteran Arik Armstead. You get the picture.

The Titans have revamped their offensive line this offseason. Will it be enough to help the Titans’ new-look attack perform efficiently vs. their divisional foes? A tall order indeed.