The 2018 Tennessee Titans nearly overcame a slow start to make the NFL playoffs, winning six of nine after a Week 8 bye and finishing 9-7.
A decent defense and the emergence of Derrick Henry as a 1,000-yard back gave Titans fans something to think about. But will the team keep getting better, and possibly win the AFC South? Or is Tennessee destined for mediocrity?
Tennessee Titans, over/under 8.5 wins
This one may not jump off the page, but I think this is the easiest call.
The Titans play in a division in which the 11-win Texans and 10-win Colts made the playoffs last season. The Jaguars are one year removed from an AFC Championship Game appearance and should be much improved after subbing former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles for Blake Bortles.
The Titans are the worst team in this division, and for me to pick the over, I’d have to convince myself that all four AFC South teams are going to finish with a winning record.
I’m not a Marcus Mariota believer. He may be the fourth-best starting quarterback in the division (when he manages to stay on the field). That’s not going to cut it for a team that doesn’t excel in other areas.
Tennessee’s offensive and defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ranked 22nd and 18th, respectively, in 2018. Based on these metrics, their estimated win total was 7.7, meaning luck played a part in getting an extra 1.3 wins. (The Titans started 3-4, and the three wins came in Weeks 2-4 by a combined nine points, including one in overtime.)
2019 Tennessee Titans schedule: AFC South opponents
Colts (10-6) – two games: I think the Colts sweep the Titans. The young Indianapolis lines will have another year of experience and Andrew Luck will put distance between him and his career-threatening neck injury.
Texans (11-5) – two games: The Titans could get swept here too, but I’ll give them a split. Watson is better than Mariota, and so are the players around him.
Jaguars (5-11) – two games: Don’t let the Jaguars’ off year fool you. They’re more talented than their 2018 record indicates. The defense remains stacked. Running back Leonard Fournette is a monster with bad injury luck last year. Nick Foles will replace Blake Bortles at quarterback, the weakest link on the team. I’ll give the Titans a split here, even though a sweep is possible.
Projected AFC South record: 2-4
2019 Tennessee Titans schedule: non-division opponents
at Broncos (6-10): If this game was in Nashville, I’d probably pick the Titans. But it’s not. Joe Flacco isn’t great, but he’s better than Case Keenum. Expect an improved Broncos team led by new head coach Vic Fangio to win.
vs. Chiefs (12-4): I don’t give the Titans a shot, even at home. Patrick Mahomes will carve up this defense.
at Raiders (4-12): I’ll award the Titans a road win, even though the Raiders should be much improved with three first-round draft picks and newly-acquired receiver Antonio Brown.
vs. Chargers (12-4): One of the most efficient teams last season, the Chargers went 7-1 on the road but fell short in the playoffs. Philip Rivers knows how to win on the road, so I’m riding with Los Angeles.
at Falcons (7-9): Atlanta is another team with more talent than their 2018 record indicates. The Falcons suffered a rash of injuries in 2018. Matt Ryan had numbers nearly identical numbers to his MVP season and I expect more of the same this fall. The Falcons win in Atlanta.
at Panthers (7-9): I’ll take Carolina at home. An offseason of recovery will do Cam Newton some good, so expect another Titans loss.
vs. Saints (13-3): Expect New Orleans to score serious points and for the Titans to fail to keep up.
vs. Buccaneers (5-11): I’ll be conservative and take the Titans.
at Browns (7-8-1): With the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield now has an arsenal at his disposal. The Titans don’t have the personnel to slow down America’s new team.
vs. Bills (6-10): Josh Allen should improve, but I’ll pick the Titans to win. Buffalo did beat the Titans last year, but to be safe, I’ll add one last victory to the Titans’ win count.
Non-divisional record: 3-7
Projected final record: 5-11
Things don’t always go as planned. However, if I’m even close to being right, I have a three-game cushion.
The pick: under 8.5
Other season win totals to consider
San Francisco 49ers under 8: The 49ers’ lack of skill players behind George Kittle isn’t a good way to overcome a soft defense. Jimmy Garoppolo is overrated and coming off a torn ACL. The team won just 4 games last year and will face a much tougher schedule.
Pittsburgh Steelers under 8.5: An aging Ben Roethlisberger is going to have trouble next year without his two favorite targets.
Indianapolis Colts over 9.5: An improved, confident Colts should at least equal their 2018 win total (10-6).