Buying or Selling Tennessee Titans as Playoff Contenders
Just to put that in context, they now have a better record than the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals. They also can brag that their only loss came in overtime, on the road, against the Texans.
When you put it like that, it looks pretty good for them, but the Titans have their share of problems. Even with those, with a mark of 3-1, playoff talk is tough to avoid.
By Week 4 of 2012, seven teams had a mark of 3-1. Of those seven, four made the playoffs and one other just barely missed the cut. So while there's reason to think that the Titans have a real shot at the postseason, they're far from guaranteed.
On their side, they have a top-10-caliber defense, a top-five offensive line and—despite Shonn Greene still out with an injury—a top-10 rushing attack.
Going against them is the strength of the schedule they've had so far, their lackluster passing attack and the high number of penalties they've racked up.
The three opponents that the Titans have beaten have a combined record of 4-8, so it's not like Tennessee has had the most challenging schedule.
It only gets tougher from here on out.
Ahead of them, the Titans will play five teams with a record equal to or better than theirs. Among the other games are matchups against the 49ers and Texans, so it's not like the games will get any easier.
There's also the fact that, coming into Week 4, the Titans' passing offense was ranked 30th in the NFL. They are also healthier than a lot of other teams right now.
To make matters worse for the passing attack, ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky reported that Jake Locker suffered a hip injury during the Jets game on Sunday. The extent of the injury is unknown.
That said, the Titans have been trusting Locker with the ball more and more, and he's been delivering. Against the San Diego Chargers, Locker was a stud. He engineered two impressive touchdown drives, one of which was a game-winner with only two minutes to go.
After that game, I was still a little skeptical, but the game Locker had against the Jets was something else.
Up to that point, the New York Jets had the seventh-ranked pass defense in the league despite having faced Tom Brady. Locker picked them apart, completing 75 percent of his throws for 149 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 17 yards on the ground.
Are the Titans playoff-bound?
Locker has gone four weeks and 87 total passing attempts without a turnover. That shows me that he's playing conservatively. It's working, so there's no reason not to, but with the Titans now trusting him more than before, I expect we've yet to see everything that Locker can do.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, didn't look so good. He completed only three of his eight passes, although one of those was a huge touchdown pass.
It's clear either way that Locker is the better quarterback of the two and not having him will hurt.
Because the Titans have won every game but one in 2013-14—and that one was against a tough opponent who prevailed in overtime—I like their chances of making the playoffs if Locker shakes off the injury and returns immediately.
The longer Locker is out, the more I'm selling the Titans making it. Even with Fitzpatrick under center the rest of the season, though, I still see four or five more wins for the team.
If Locker misses only a week or two, I'm still buying the Titans making the playoffs.
If he misses more than two weeks and doesn't start against San Francisco, I'm selling. The passing game was already less than average when Locker was starting. Without him, I don't know that the Titans' rushing attack will be enough.
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