Why the Titans won’t win 10 games in 2008

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Rather than replicate a lot of what Drexel said in his preview, or what we’ve said in other posts here, I’ll be a negative nelly, and tell you why I don’t expect the Titans to win 10 (or more) games in 2008.
1. Injuries
The Titans were exceptionally healthy in 2007-of the starters, only Albert Hayensworth (4), Chris Hope (5), and, if you want to count him, Brandon Jones (7) missed as many as 4 games. NFL teams simply aren’t able to maintain that kind of health every year, and it’s likely the Titans will suffer more injuries to key players than they had in 2007. Ceteris paribus, a team with more injuries will be worse.
2. Opposing Quarterbacks
The Titans last year had games against Drew Brees before the Saints had an offensive line, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, David Carr, Quinn Gray, Brodie Croyle, and Jim Sorgi. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row, as I believe it’s safe to describe each of those quarterbacks as “below average.” This year, the only opponents I see as likely to be below average at QB are MIN, BAL, KC, and CHI. The Titans may get lucky and see backup QBs again, but you can’t count on that.
3. Better Overall Opponents
The Titans last year played the NFC South and AFC West. While the NFC North is probably at about the same level as the NFC South was last year, the AFC North represents a clear upgrade on the AFC West. The Titans will be hard-pressed to match their 5-3 record from last year.
4. Defensive Regression
One of the key lessons from Pro Football Prospectus 2007, which the local Bear fans ignored to their own detriment last season, is that defenses tend to be less consistently good than offenses. The Titans’ defense was mediocre to poor in 2006, and mediocre to poor in 2007 when Albert was out. I expect them to be better than they were in 2006, but it’s very unlikely they’ll be as good as they were in 2007.
5. Offensive Line Changes
The key to the Titans’ offensive success last year was excellent play by the offensive line. That unit has two new starters in Scott and Amano. While I’m confident the offensive line should be a strength by the end of the year, that likely won’t be the case early.
6. Lack of Improvement in the Passing Game
The Titans were mediocre at best throwing the ball in 2006. Whether it’s the quarterback, the wide receivers, or both (my answer), the early indications suggest the passing game hasn’t advanced to the point it will good enough in 2008 to carry a team that has problems running the ball.
7. Luck in Close Games
The Titans went 2-4 last year in games decided by 10+ points, and 6-3 in games decided by 7 or fewer points. One of those is more representative of a team’s actual ability, and it’s not winning close games. With more average luck, the Titans don’t win 10 games in 2007. With more average luck, the Titans won’t win 10 games in 2008.
Overall
I don’t like to predict records-the only good way to do it is to pick each and every game, but every year there will be 1-3 games you think there’s no way the team will win that they win, and ditto games they will lose. Football Outsiders’ DVOA predicts a 7-9 record for the Titans in 2007, with only a 21% chance of making winning 9+ games (PFP08), and an 18.6% chance of making the playoffs. I think the Titans will be better than that, but not much better. Call it 8-8, and 4th in the AFC South.
Disheartened? Remember, I gave the Titans only a minimal shot of making the playoffs at this time last year, and I was wrong. I could easily be wrong again, though of course I don’t think I am. Disagree? Let me know, and let me know why.

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9 Responses to “Why the Titans won’t win 10 games in 2008”

  1. fireballfan32 Says:

    You being negative is certainly a surprise!! I think youre really reaching on some of these. Yes the passing game cant overcome a poor rushing game but they dont have “problems rushing the ball”, at no.5 in the league I would like to see what you call a good rushing team. And you can throw what ever stats or percentages you want at me but being good on D one year dosent mean a drop off the next, look at the Ravens, Steelers, Bucs, Jags etc.. as proof of that. I think you can add Houston and GreenBay to youre QB list. Schaub hasnt been able to stay on the field against this D yet so what makes you think he ever can? And who knows yet what you will see out of Rodgers, but I bet his numbers arent as good as the last game, play, he faced the TitansD. Also all but Brees on last years QB list were backups at some point in the season, one of which resulted in a loss. How do you know they wont face atleast that many 2nd stringers again. I’ll go with 9, 10 or even 11 wins this year. By the way have you ever considered a career in motivational speaking?

  2. JimOKC Says:

    That is the beauty of it. No one knows. Thats why they play the game! Win or lose, if the team is competetive and plays hard, thats all anyone can do.

  3. Dan Says:

    Tom u suck!

  4. Scott Says:

    This is a good piece Tom. I think it is worthwhile to examine the negative and not just blindly support the Titans and gloss over all of the deficiencies on this team.
    To me though, it really comes down to injuries, and injuries on the defensive side of the ball, in particular. If this team loses a KVB, Albert or Bulluck (or some combination of players) for an extended period of time, it will be extremely difficult for the Titans to match the 10 and 6 record they put up last year. This is probably true, to some degree, of any team in the NFL, but I think it is even more important for the Titans. It was quite telling last year when we went on that 0 and 3 run after Albert went down. Who knows what the Titan’s record would have looked like if Albert had been out for more than 3 games.
    I am not sure that I agree with you on some of the points you make. I don’t see the offensive line being less effective this year than last. Amano played so often last year that he was almost like a starter, and I think that Jake Scott is a better player than Jacob Bell, so (barring injuries) this unit should be better and more effective this year.
    I also think the defence could be even better this year. Both Finnegan and Griffin will be more effective this year and the Titans D-Line improved the moment they rid themselves of the lazy Starks. I was also never one who believed that Laboy and Odom were as good as their sack totals suggested last year. The combination of Kearse, Ball, Hayes and Jones will, I think, be every bit as good this year as those two guys were last year – even if they don’t match the 14 sacks that Odom and Laboy put up in 2007.
    As for the passing game, well I too have concerns about that aspect of this year’s offense. I have expressed my concerns about the quality of the Titan’s receivers in other comments I have left on this site. I don’t think the receivers on this year’s team are better than the one’s we had last year. But, if Young is a bigger threat to run this year (and opponents are forced to account for that) and C. Johnson and Crumpler can make some plays, I am optimistic that VY’s touchdown to interception ratio will be markedly improved this year and his completion percentage will match last year’s. This should mean an improved passing game.
    With this Titans team, I do think that 8-8 is a possibility, but I also think that it could just as likely be an 11-5 record.

  5. David H. Says:

    Tom, I appreciate your glass half empty approach on the Titans week in and week out. Spewing this venom on the eve of the regular season however, isn’t doing much to boost the morale and confidence of some fans about their team though. Hardcore fans won’t be affected by it but you do make some valid points.
    With that being said, I think that the Titans success will come down to three things. 1) The defensive line (especially Haynesworth) maintaining the same intensity by rotating their front four and keeping their starters fresh. The rookies JJ and “Big Play Hayes” need to get in there and make an impact as early as Sunday. If that happens, and if the Freak is at least half the player he was in his first stint giving us at least 6 or 7 sacks, then the D will be fine if not slightly better. 2) Vince Young needs to embrace the offense that made his mentor a star and respectable QB. Vince now has in Alge what his “PA” (McNair) had in Frankie. He needs to use his Tight ends and rely on that running game. Vince doesnít have to put any undo pressure on himself unless the Titans canít get a running game going or get outscored early and he has to win the game by passing. I can see the Titans easily ranked 2nd or 3rd in rushing by the end of the year. We are the only team that has a “3 back system” that must be respected. White and CJ are the next duo that will tear this league apart. And Vince is a threat every time he pulls the ball down. Donít sleep on Chris Henry. Even though he wonít see extensive action CH as well as Ganther who myself as well as most of you think is a sleeper, will play special teams and be fresh if a starter goes down. (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!)
    3) FinallyÖ We need to take some of the pressure off ourselves and start to put the other teams in the division under the same microscope. Indy has dominated the South for 5 straight years. How much longer can they stay on top??? Time catches up to everyone and so do injuries. #18 not having played a snap in the preseason wont hurt but, not having Jeff Saturday for the first 5 to 6 games will i.e., offensive line reads, and just the natural chemistry between a QB and his center. Can Harrison, Sanders and Freeney stay healthy if this team is to dominate again??? Jacksonville has been on the cusp of taking over for how many years??? Have they done squat to establish themselves as one of the AFC elite??? Can David Garrard avoid a sophomore slump??? Can this team with all the off season distractions (Matt Jones, Fred Taylor, and Richard Collier) put it past them and reach for AFC South supremacy??? Will THEIR receiving core help Garrard take his game to the next level??? Does Houston finally have what it takes to make the playoffs??? Can THEIR defense maintain the same intensity??? Can Schaub stay upright long enough to lead that offense to greatness??? Who will step up and make and impact running the ball on this team??? Do they have a star running back at all??? We know it wonít be Chris Brown!!!!
    Everybody has pressure and faces some serious scrutiny for not living up to hype that they set from last year or underperforming from last year not just VY and the Titans. Thatís why they play the games. Fisher is battle tested and we will prevail. Let the season begin!!!!!!!

  6. jerryt. Says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all, look how everyone are bashing the titans, the season havent starated yet all you hear is titans want win no more than 8 games or make it to the play-offs.
    A injured titans team 10-6
    A healthy titans team 12-4
    I just don’t see them not winning with all the weapons they have and the D is a lights out defense all the titans have done this year is revamped their offense and vince is a winner, fisher is a winner, hiemer is a winner. I think the other teams in our division are more concerned about the titans than most people think.

  7. Jason Says:

    Love this article. These are all concerns I’ve felt, and I love the use of the Football Outsiders info.
    I’m as big a Titans fan as anyone, but that doesn’t mean I view them through rose-colored glasses.
    In my mind this season is make or break for Vince. Until I see him get his attitude under control and make better decisions throwing the ball I’m going to be a doubter.
    If he throws more INTs than TDs again this season then I believe the Titans are in the market for a new QB.

  8. TitanT Says:

    As a long time reader and first-time poster, can I just say this website freakin’ rocks. There’s a lot of readers out here who really appreciate the thoughtful and analytical pieces you guys put together for our favorite team.
    As for this particular article… boooo!!!! Seriously, though… all very valid points. I’m a die-hard fan but I could also see the Titans tumbling to 8-8 or slightly worse this year, regardless of injuries. However, the biggest factor not accounted for in your points has to be the coaching. There’s a reason Fisher is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL – his teams always seem to out-perform their predicted success. Some of that comes from being a small-market team (and thus being less likely to be predicted by national media as having a good season), but some of it comes from natural Fisher bad-assness. I don’t know if he’s the best coach in the league, but if you give Fisher an average-talent team, he’ll find away to get them to operate like a winning unit.

  9. Tom Gower Says:

    Thanks, guys, for all the comments. I knew my predicted record wouldn’t be the most popular thing out there, but I’m glad to see a number of comments more substantive than “you suck, Titans will win at least 12”. I hope the Titans will win 12+, of course, but we’ll have to see how the year goes.

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