9-7-Playoff Implications? – What does it mean?
How much weight does last season’s record have on 2017-18?
Going into last season, the Tennessee Titans were not on anyone’s radar as a potential playoff team. In fact, it was predicted – by most analysts – the team would be lucky to make .500, with many assuming the team would win less than 8 games. They finished 9-7 and were on the verge of a playoff birth since 2008. Unfortunately, an untimely injury of QB Marcus Mariota combined with an abysmal performance in Jacksonville eliminated the chances of the team playing a few games in January.
Paul Kuharsky – who provides the most non-biased coverage – predicted the team would go 6-10 in 2016. Throughout the years, I put more value in Kuharsky’s predictions being that he’s always had fingers on the pulse of the team. He’s on the inside, sees more of what the team is doing, and gets a close look at the behind the scenes fans only hope for. He also is not going to provide false hope. Although sometimes I disagreed with his predictions, I respected them because I knew it was coming from an honest outlook.
The 2015 season outcome played a huge role in the expectations of the team. The Titans were considered to be one of the worst teams in football, scrounging up only 5 wins in 2014 and 2015 combined. Instability was in flux. A new GM was appointed in Jon Robinson. Mike Mularkey was given the go ahead to lead the team from a head coaching perspective. The legendary Dick Lebeau was given the full reigns on the defensive side of the ball.
Things were changing in Nashville.
The Titans had the first bid in the 2016 NFL draft. Fans were clamoring for the team to pick Joey Bosa. At least I know I was. Others were Jalen Ramsey hopefuls. I jumped on that bandwagon for a brief period. Many predicted the Titans would select Laremy Tunsil to solidify the Offensive Line. I was never sold nor did I want the team to select Tunsil. Looking back, all three of those picks turned out to meet or exceed expectations.
So what did the Titans do?
The Tennessee Titans – with a move that sent shockwaves throughout the NFL – traded out of the top pick for a King’s Ransom. The Titans were not one player away from making the leap and Jon Robinson knew that. Some viewed the team – despite having found its franchise QB – as being light years away from relevancy. Robinson knew he could make this team better and capitalized on the Rams’ desperation – and he may have struck oil.
Robinson negotiated a deal with the St. Louis Rams to send their 2016 1st, 4th, and 6th in exchange for the Rams 2016 1st, two 2nd round picks, a 3rd, and in 2017 a 1st and 3rd. Jon Robinson secured a blockbuster deal. Not only was he able to collect a multiple picks, but he STILL was able to get the player he wanted all along in Jack Conklin – seemingly solidifying the Offensive Tackle position at the team for years to come.
That is how you fix a 5-win-in-two-seasons franchise. Let’s examine how the picks turned out for both teams. The Ram’s franchise QB Jared Goff hasn’t exactly panned out. By giving up the 1st pick, the Titans were able to add Jack Conklin, Derrick Henry, and Corey Davis (2017) – all of which have had or will have a major impact on this team.
Other players like Kevin Dodd, Austin Johnson, and Jonnu Smith (2017) were acquired via the trade. Johnson and Dodd have yet to have a significant impact on the team. If Dodd can overcome his nagging foot injury and return to his 2015 form, he’ll add tremendous value. Johnson has shown promise in the snaps he’s been afforded. However, if Davis and Smith meet or exceed expectations, this has to go down as one of the best deals ever. Credit to Jon Robinson.
The bandwagon is filling up quick in support of this Titans team. Some are predicting the Titans to be one of the best teams in the league. Others peg them as a Super Bowl contender. Could they be? Sure. Every team is a contender before September. The NFL is an exciting game because seemingly every season, there is always at least one team no one expected making a playoff push.
Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, Paul Kuharsky predicts the team will be 10-6 and make the postseason for the first time in 9 years. How much weight should be put into these predictions? In my view, not much.What Kuharsky’s prediction means to me is a ballpark range of where the team could hope to finish.
There should be some excitement, no doubt. With reports coming from minicamp stating Corey Davis is everything you’d expect being the 1st receiver selected, Taywan Taylor proving his hard work and consistency, and raving reviews of coverage linebacker Jayon Brown making plays in bunches, it’s hard not to get excited.
Been There Before
It’s important to remember 9-7 and almost making the playoffs means absolutely nothing going into this season. Think back to when the Titans were 9-7 in 2011 under first year coach Mike Munchak. QB Jake Locker – a dual threat quarterback selected in the first round– was set to have a big year. The team drafted an addition weapon in Wide Receiver Kendall Wright in the 1st round to pair alongside Kenny Britt. The defensive side of the ball had solid pieces in place.
What was the Titans record in 2012? 6-10. A series of unfortunate events derailed the team that went into the season looking to improve their 9-7 record and taste the postseason, leaving only a bitter taste on the tongues of Titan fans nationwide. The team finished dead last in the division – as was predicted by Paul Kuharsky.
Remember the 2008 season?
If you’re a Titans fan, how could you not. In one of the most exciting seasons Nashville had witnessed since the the early 2000s, the Titans were making some serious noise. They were the “one team no one expected”. I mean, it was almost like a fairy tale, right? Tom Brady goes down Week 1 so the AFC is up for grabs. Tennessee goes on a tear, securing the number 1 seed in the playoffs. Smash and Dash was shredding defenses. The road to the Lombardi trophy went through Nashville in 2008.
Then, it happened.
In a nightmare game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Titans were eliminated. Some of the plays from that game that had a significant role on the outcome scarred my brain. The costly turnovers. The game winning field goal in the final minute of regulation. Former Titans – Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle – contributed to the heartbreaker in Tennessee. Mason scored the Ravens only touchdown and Samari added a pick off of Kerry Collins. LenDale White’s fumble. Algae Crumpler’s fumble. The Ravens defense purposely injuring Chris Johnson- who was on his way to becoming the first running back to go for over 100 on that Ravens defense since who knows how long. THE NON-CALL DELAY OF GAME ON 3RD DOWN THAT SET UP THE GAME WINNING FIELD GOAL?!
Ok, I have to stop because I’m getting sick thinking about it. To this day, I still believe the Pittsburgh Steelers’ – a team the Titans beat by 17 points in week 16- 6th Super Bowl Trophy has the Tennessee Titans name etched on their somewhere on that thing. That season – without question – belonged to the Tennessee Titans.
Heading into the 2009 season, there were high expectations for the Titans. The end result? 8-8 record, a third place finish, and the beginning of the end of Jeff Fisher and Vince Young in Nashville after a tumultuous relationship.
Instead of returning to the winning ways of the early 2000s following a promising 2008 campaign, the Tennessee Titans found themselves among the league’s worst. Their losing ways positioned the team to select the Quarterback of the future – Marcus Mariota.
I believe the Titans should make the playoffs this year. They have many pieces in place, stability at the Quarterback position, potential lethal weapon pass catchers on the outside, a double dose of thunder from a running back standpoint, one of the deadliest tight ends in the game, a defensive unit with potential, and lastly – and most importantly – a rock solid Offensive Line group.
The offensive line is the foundation for any productive football team. The unit is composed of two 1st round top picks in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, a solid anchor in center Ben Jones, and a body-bully guard tandem of Quinton “Huggy Bear” Spain and Josh Klein. This group of maulers is going to ensure Marcus Mariota stays upright and that the duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry have wide open spaces to do their damage. The punishment this group will inflict has this Titans fan grinning from ear to ear.
Where do I see this Titans team finishing in 2017? Permitting all things go right and there are no unexpected and detrimental injuries, I truly believe this team has the potential to not only win the AFC South crown this season, but can begin to stack division titles in their path to a Super Bowl.
In looking at the schedule, I predict this team -barring injury- will go 10-6. I believe the Titans will go 4-4 in the division and lose close games to both the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11. The Titans will win the tiebreaker with the Houston Texans and earn a trip to the playoffs.
I predict this Titans team will have went to and/or will have won their first Super Bowl Championship by the year 2020. This year, I believe we will compete and make the playoffs. How far the team will go depends on how healthy the team is come late December.
If this season’s prediction rings true, expect the Tennessee Titans and the Oakland Raiders to be the AFC powerhouses for the upcoming years. As for the NFC, I expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys to be battling it out for the right to represent the NFC in the grandest stage of them all.
In fact, I can see Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston going head to head at the highest level in the very near future. And we all know what Marcus Mariota’s record is against Winston, right?
I anticipate Mariota’s streak against Winston remains in tact.
But, that’s only a prediction.
And this article explained how much that really means.