September 10th, the Tennessee Titans will open the season at home against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are the “it team” in the AFC (if you exclude New England). They have a dynamic quarterback in Derek Carr, awesome wide receiver duo with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and of course, Beast Mode. However, many pundits around the country believe the Titans are an ascending team and this game could be a referendum on how good the Titans can become!
USA Today projected the Titans to go 12-4 and win the AFC South! Shocking right? Check out what they had to say:
Only a tiebreaker (for a woeful 2-4 division record) kept this rising club out of postseason last year. As long as Marcus Mariota remains on the field, the Titans might not only turn the corner but roar around it. They will hit a rough patch from Weeks 11-15, with a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh and consecutive games on the West Coast as part of a stretch when they play four of five away from Nashville.
The Titans success this season hinges on their defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. The additions of Logan Ryan and first round pick Adoree Jackson in the defensive backfield have to pay dividends immediately.
Granted, Mike Mularkey has been 11-14 as Titans head coach however, they are the talk of the AFC South during the offseason. The Titans’ opponents in 2017 combined for a 112.5-143.5 record last season, good for a .439 winning percentage. That percentage gives the Titans the third-easiest (or tied for second-easiest) schedule in the NFL heading into this season. As we all know, that does not mean anything because of parity, injuries and the inability to schedule Abilene Christian for week one. But, the AFC South is winnable.
Jacksonville Jag has been offseason champions for the past two seasons. The Houston Texans have quarterback issues and the Indianapolis Colts have major issues beyond Andrew Luck. Maybe 12-4 is possible. However, winning the division is a realistic expectation!