Tennessee Titans: Will the Titans Steal the AFC South from the Houston Texans?
The Baltimore Ravens arrived in Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans this past weekend a little too confidently. After beating the Pittsburgh Steelers so handsomely in Week 1, the Ravens were brought back down to earth by Matt Hasselbeck.
The former Seattle Seahawks' star led his new team to their first victory of the Mike Munchak' era, with a 358-yard performance.
Many will point to the Ravens and warn the Titans not to get ahead of themselves, especially after their Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, it is not unrealistic for this team to seize the AFC South crown this year.
With Peyton Manning sidelined, the Houston Texans have been earmarked as the favorites for the division that has been dominated by the Colts over the past decade. The Texans may be the most talented team in the league, but they are not without their issues.
The defense is still yet to be truly tested as they transition to a 3-4 scheme. Chad Henne may have been impressive in Week 1 against the Patriots, but his Dolphins' offense is nowhere near as talented as even the Titans'.
Even with Arian Foster sidelined, the Texans still have a very good offense. Losing Kevin Walter for significant time won't be enough to stall them, while Ben Tate and Derrick Ward have shown that they can be effect in Foster's place.
Wade Philips will obviously have an impact on the Texans' defense, but not significant enough to guarantee them a playoff spot or division title.
Despite spending their first round draft pick on the next face of the franchise—Jake Locker—at quarterback, the Titans brought in Hasselbeck to allow them to compete this year. While Locker sits on the bench, the 35-year-old veteran is looking to rebound from his recent struggles in Seattle.
Hasselbeck threw 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions last year in 14 games. However, one must consider that the offense around him lacked any major receiving talent. Going from throwing to Mike Williams, Golden Tate and John Carlson to Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Nate Washington, should make his job much easier.
The arm strength and ball placement on shown from the Titans' quarterback was more than impressive against the Ravens. Hasselbeck finished the game with six throws of at least 17 yards including longs of 37, 42 and 33 yards.
If Hasselbeck can keep this consistency with his deep ball then the Titans' offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Chris Johnson is yet to return to full speed after missing the team's training camp, but it will be impossible for defenses to focus in on him this year.
Despite his issues off the field, Kenny Britt is an elite talent at receiver. He is too fast and strong to be matched up to with just one defender, but more importantly his hands are like glue. Nate Washington may not have hands of glue but he is a burner that generally demands some help over the top.
Britt and Washington are the perfect receivers to run off of a strong play-action game. With Hasselbeck's veteran nous to go along with the threat of Chris Johnson, defenses won't be able to cope with the outside receivers and Johnson.
Johnson and Javon Ringer are a dynamic attacking duo who will provide just as much production as Arian Foster and company in Houston.
Defensively there may be some question marks, as well as a number of injuries, but they have only given up 29 points in their first two games. That may not be that impressive considering one of those games included 16 points in a loss to the Jaguars.
However, when you look across the division, the Titans arguably have the most settled defense.
The Jaguars won't be relevant on offense, which will force their defense to spend too much time on the field. The Indianapolis Colts' defense was catered to play with leads—leads that they don't look like getting over the coming season. The Texans' defense obviously has plenty of concerns as they adjust to life under Wade Philips.
With games at home against the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as winnable away trips to play the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Colts and Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans have a great chance to make a playoff appearance this year.
A Peyton Manning-less AFC South gives opportunities to all of the teams within the division to make the playoffs. The Houston Texans may be the media darlings right now, but the Tennessee Titans are definitely my pick to upset the odds.
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