The Tennessee Titans were a team that some thought could be a dark horse contender for a Wild Card spot last season, but that never materialized as they turned in a disappointing 6-10 campaign. The Titans started 3-1, but then went on to lose 8 of their next 10 games as their season collapsed. The team hired Ken Wisenhunt to lead their rebuild, and they will be hoping to improve quickly.
Offensively, everything depends on what Jake Locker becomes. He has shown some promise when he’s on the field, and he completed 60.7% of his passes 1,256 yards, 8 TDs and 4 INTs last season. Unfortunately, Locker can’t stay healthy, and he’s only appeared in 18 games over the last two seasons due to various injuries. If he can stay healthy, the Titans have some intriguing talent around him with promising young receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter as well as rookie running back Bishop Sankey. The Titans also added first round pick Taylor Lewan to a solid offensive line that only allowed 37 sacks last season and paved the way for the NFL’s 14th ranked rushing attack.
Defensively, Tennessee had a solid season, ranking 14th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense. However, the loss of Alterraun Verner is a big blow, and there is a lot of pressure on Blidi Wreh-Wilson to step up in his second season. The Titans also added Wesley Woodyard to solidify their linebacking corps and signed Shaun Phillips to boost their 21st ranked pass rush. However, this defense is in for a decline if they can’t replace Verner’s production.
The Titans have the league’s 31st ranked strength of schedule, which is partly a product of playing in the AFC South, the worst division in the NFL. The Titans only have five games against playoff teams from last season, including two against the Indianapolis Colts. However, four of those five games are on the road, as are matchups with Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
The key for the Titans is how they begin the season, as their first four games are at the Kansas City Chiefs, home against the Dallas Cowboys, at the Cincinnati Bengals and at the Colts. There is a very real chance this team could start 0-4 and the season could be lost before it even begins. Even if they make it through without too much damage, they will have to be very good on the road to have a successful season.
Of course, it is impossible to fairly predict the Titans’ record without knowing if Locker will be healthy. The Titans didn’t dramatically improve or decline on paper, so it really all hinges on whether Locker can play like their quarterback of the future. However, given his track record, we must assume that Locker will get hurt at some point. With his injury history, the inexperience at the skill positions, and the loss of their best defensive player, it appears the Titans will be in rebuilding mode for at least one more season. I am predicting them to finish with a 6-10 record, which is fair until Locker proves he can stay healthy and perform consistently.