Jake Locker's Strong Return Proves Tennessee Titans Still Have Shot at Division

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIOctober 20, 2013

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20:  Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers at LP Field on October 20, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The 49ers defeated the Titans 31-17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans' Jake Locker was clearly not back to full health against the San Francisco 49ers. His throws were a bit more erratic, he scrambled less, he looked slower, and he even visibly limped at times.

It was only two weeks ago that he injured his hip against the New York Jets, so it's not surprising that he wasn't completely healed.

But despite the limitations, Locker played pretty well.

Locker completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed three times for 29 yards. Not bad for a guy playing through an injury against the San Francisco defense.

Now the Titans are coming off of their third straight loss—which looks bad, but when you look around the rest of the division, the Titans aren't actually in that bad a spot.

The Colts lead the division right now at 4-2 and are playing the undefeated Denver Broncos. If they lose, they'll still be in the lead, but they'll only be one win in front of the Titans.

The defending AFC South champion Texans are currently a game behind the Titans at 2-5. With their starting quarterback injured, they probably aren't going to be as good as they were at the start of the season.

The Jaguars, of course, are just a couple more losses away from being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They are one of three teams yet to claim a win.

The Titans are entering their bye week, and they couldn't have a week off at a better time. Locker can take time to get back to full health, as can Moise Fokou and Shonn Greene, who had one carry against the 49ers.

After the bye, the Titans will face the Rams on the road, the Jaguars and Colts at home, and then the Raiders and Colts on the road.

The Colts are a good team, but the Titans can definitely beat them once if all goes well. The Rams, Raiders and Jaguars are all having poor seasons. All three games should be wins.

The Titans face the Broncos in Denver after that. While the unbeaten Broncos will be a tough team to play, after them, the Titans face the Cardinals at home, the Jaguars on the road, and the Texans at home to end the season.

So, despite losing three games in a row, the Titans are in a pretty good position going forward with the toughest part of the schedule behind them and with Locker back in the lineup.

Even if the Titans can't catch up to the Colts and win the division, they're in a pretty good position to pick up a Wild Card spot. Right now, the Titans are 3-4 overall. The only AFC teams—who aren't division leaders—that have more wins than the Titans are the Broncos, the Chargers and the Jets.

The Broncos or the Chiefs are almost shoo-ins for one of the Wild Card spots, but the only teams firmly ahead of the Titans in the race for the other spot are two teams that they've beaten.

The Titans aren't the only team at 3-4. The Ravens, Rams, Bills and Browns all have that same record, and the Miami Dolphins are 3-3, putting them a half-game up, but three wins is three wins is three wins at this point.

The Titans are no worse off than most of the rest of the AFC, and they have a very easy schedule moving forward. If they can avoid losing any upsets, they'll end up with nine wins, putting them on the verge of the playoffs.

If they can avoid upsets and beat the Colts once, they'll be looking at 10 wins and an almost certain chance at the postseason.

Of course, that's all on paper.

In order for any of this to happen, the Titans will have to come out of the bye with some things changed. But they have a good quarterback in Jake Locker, a solid offensive line, and a top-10 defense. They look ready to compete for the division, and they have a shot at actually winning it.