Maybe the Titans will win 10 games after all

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The week before the season opener against the Jaguars, I wrote a post explaining why I thought the Titans wouldn’t win 10 games in 2008. Five weeks into the season, the Titans are already halfway to that win total I didn’t think they’d reach for the entire year. So, where did I go wrong in my assessment?
1. Injuries
The Titans were very healthy in 2007, and so far they’ve been very healthy in 2008. In fact, the only projected starters to miss any time thus far have been Vince Young and Justin Gage. Luckily enough, QB and WR are the two positions where the Titans had the best depth, or perhaps it’s better to describe them as the positions where the value of the starter over the backup was lowest (including perhaps negative at quarterback).
2. Opposing Quarterbacks
I properly pegged MIN and BAL to be two teams the Titans played that would get below average quarterbacking. I missed, though, that the Jaguars would play much of the season-opening game without any of their 3 starting interior offensive linemen, as C Brad Meester missed the game (something knowable) and starting G’s Maurice Williams and Chris Naeole both suffered season-ending injuries. Without them, the Titans were able to dominate the Jags’ backups, with a noticeable negative effect on David Garrard’s play-predictable, with a crystal ball. I also missed the poor performance of the Texans offense and the implosion of the Bengals. The Titans should, however, see a strong slate of opposing quarterbacks as the year goes on, with only KC, CLE, and possibly HOU and DET poor passing teams.
3. Better Overall Opponents
So far, the Titans are 3-0 against the NFC North and AFC North, and have played 2 of the 4 road games. Note, though, that none of the 3 teams has a winning record-BAL is 2-2, MIN 2-3, and CIN winless at 0-5. The Titans have yet to play the division leaders, PIT and CHI, and I still see GB as the most talented team in the NFC North. Still, with CLE on the schedule, it looks likely the Titans will match or better last year’s 5-3 record in these 8 games, contrary to my preseason expectations.
4. Defensive Regression
Most defenses aren’t really good multiple years in a row. Sometimes teams are-BAL for a couple years, TB, CHI, and the Titans seem to be in that same special category. This looks like a clear miss so far.
5. Offensive Line Changes
I still think this has been somewhat of an issue for the Titans, as pressure has been created by what looks like unfamiliarity. Plus, I still think Eugene Amano has been a downgrade at the LG position. Still, the Titans haven’t seen the sort of wholesale problems up the middle that plagued the Jaguars.
6. Lack of Improvement in the Passing Game
Hey, I get one right. The Titans have been a mediocre passing offense thus far in 2008 by pretty much any measure you care to name. Thankfully, the defense has been good enough to keep this from being much of a problem so far. Later in the year, though, the offense’s inability to throw the ball successfully will cost the Titans at least one game.
7. Luck in Close Games
The Titans last year won 2 games by 10+ points. The Titans this year have won 3+ games by 10+ points. Luck matters less if you’re not playing close games. So far, the Titans have had one notable piece of luck-the roughing the passer call on Suggs. Yes, I think it was a penalty, but I’ve seen similar plays not called, and without that call, the Titans likely punt the ball away and quite possibly enter the bye week with a loss.
So, since the Titans would have to go 4-7 or worse not to finish with 10+ wins, how will they do? That’s another post, probably as part of a midseason review. Next up from me, the unfortunately delayed look at MLB Stephen Tulloch’s start against the Vikings.

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13 Responses to “Maybe the Titans will win 10 games after all”

  1. I.jason Says:

    I wouldn’t give up on the “Defensive Regression” idea just yet, Tom. This year’s D is giving some big plays. More importantly, they’re leaving receivers wide open at times, and have been very fortunate that those receivers have (literally) dropped the ball at those times. The game vs. Houston had several good examples of this.
    I think if (when) a team starts passing on “running downs” against this D (BEFORE they’re playing catch-up ball), we’ll start seeing some cracks in the wall. Not huge, and nothing that can’t be fixed, but enough to make the group look a bit more ordinary.
    I hope I’m wrong, but who knows?

  2. Garland Says:

    Pretty good crow, huh, Tom?

  3. Garland Says:

    Why, regarding the Suggs call, does everyone assume the Titans punt without the call? Without the roughing-the-passer call, the Titans are backed up 5 yards for the false start and replay third down. The Titans converted plenty of plays on those last couple of long drives, so there is no reason to say there is more than a 50/50 chance the Titans convert that third down.

  4. Steve Says:

    Why couldnt you just say “They’re a good team” or “Im a pessimistic numbers guy, I dont do intangibles”. The Titans overall offense has improved, and the defence is even better. Im thinking this is a 12 win season when I look at the sched.

  5. Tom Gower Says:

    With the false start enforced, it’s 3&15. I don’t have data on how teams in general or the Titans specifically fare on that kind of down&distance, but I’d guess the overall 3&15 conversion rate is probably 15-20%. Not an absolute drive-killer, but a far cry from 50/50.
    Enjoy your crow while you have it. If the Titans collapse and go 8-8 this year, I’ll be digging this post out again and writing about how I was right all along. Doesn’t look likely now, but I took grief for predicting 10-6 after a 6-2 start last year and that ended up being a good prediction. Just for the record, though, I’d rather see the Titans win games than make my predictions look good by losing.

  6. Alvin Mullins Says:

    The biggest improvement has been the Redzone offense. The D is continuing what it started last season, bending by surrendering very little points. When you average giving up less than 12 pts, the O doesn’t have to be pass happy.
    I think no one thought the Titans would have as good a running game as it does which is the biggest help to the D. If you remember during Eddie’s heyday, the D was one of the top D’s in the league, when the team became McNair’s team meaning more passing, the D declined.
    There is a reason why the Ravens have had an outstanding D for so long, the O is a running O not a passing O.

  7. Tanner M. Says:

    Not meaning to get off the subject but concerning the recent news about Pacman Jones, now that he has been reinstated and has played some games for Dallas this year, is he totally the Cowboys problem now? What I mean is, if he gets banned again, do the Titans have to give Dallas back any compensation of any kind? Or is Pacman totally the Cowboys worry now?
    I know that at one point Tennessee would have to pay back a draft choice if Pacman wasn’t let back in. But since he has been, I’m assuming the Titans are finally rid of him for good…

  8. Drexel Perry Says:

    Tanner,
    Tennessee will get a #6 from Dallas if CB Pacman Jones stays out of trouble this fall; if Jones re-offends during the season, the Cowboys will get a 5th round pick from Tennessee.

  9. Dave Says:

    If we end up having to give them a draft pick, Pacman damn sure better never come to South Jersey…

  10. kevin.b Says:

    Hey , YOU REALLY ARE A GOOD JUDGE OF TALENT ………….

  11. Will Says:

    At least you’re willing to admit a “mistake.” I predicted that the Titans would win 11 games this season … maybe they’ll win 13.
    I also predicted that the Colts would regress. I think Indianapolis is a much worse team than its 2-2 record indicates. The team consists of a rusty Peyton Manning, an underutilezed Reggie Wayne, an over-the-hill Marvin Harrison, a tremendously overrated Joseph Addai, and two oft-injured defensive stars (Freeney and Sanders).

  12. Tanner Says:

    Thanks, Drexel.
    I actually found out the answer myself about 6 pm and I was gonna post that myself. But I couldn’t get back here until now.
    At first, I’m ashamed to admit I was happy that someone beside the Titans was getting screwed over by this punk. But since his continued bad behavior can still cost the Titans valuable assets, I’m hoping Dallas can figure a way to keep him off the suspension list at least for this year.
    After that, he can be banned for life for all I care. The whole Pacman situation has helped to hold back the overall development & success of the Tennessee Titans. This team would be even better if he had just behaved himself all along or if the team had selected somebody else they liked at that #6 spot.
    Okay, not by picking Mike Williams instead but they would have been better off taking Antrel Rolle instead. Granted, Jones is a better player than Antrel but at least Rolle would still be on the team and not causing all the problems Jones has & continues to cause this team…

  13. Markus Says:

    13-3 or 14-2…the only game I’m nervous about is the Bears game…anyone notice the types of teams we struggle against?
    1. 3-4 defenses and
    2. teams with very strong defenses
    anyone think a G-Men/Titans SB could happen? Go Titans!!!

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