A lot of teams that we have previewed either have one clear starting quarterback and questions around the backup or no starting choice that is particularly attractive. The Titans are in the luxurious position of having two guys who are likely capable of making a little noise under center. They are at opposite ends of their career as well to add some intrigue to the race.
The incumbent starter — and the likely favorite to begin the season as starter — is Matt Hasselbeck. He’s not the player he was in his prime and he certainly can’t be accused of being young, but he can still throw it up and can manage a game nicely. On the other extreme is second year future star Jake Locker. The eighth overall pick last year played sparingly last season but showed glimpses of his potential when he did. I’m confident that when the dust settles he’ll be the best QB not named Newton is his class — and maybe even the best overall.
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Deciding which guy provides the better option for the team this year is a good problem to have — unless they become a distraction. They seem to get along well, though, and neither seems like a real trouble-making sort, though, so they should be fine. Locker also knows that his chance is going to come when he’s ready, so his patience only needs to be finite.
Outside of the quarterbacks the biggest storyline on this team is Chris Johnson. The running back had been playing like an all-world superstar since 2008, and last year he held out in order to get paid to reflect it. He got his contract, but the season was disastrous. The holdout cost him much of his offseason, he never got into proper shape, and he was a mere shadow of his former self. All of his key statistics were down. He needs to bounce back much stronger or the offense will struggle.
The offensive line got their share of blame for Johnson’s woes, but that’s not entirely justified. They weren’t highly-ranked against the run, but their pass protection was very solid. That means that they weren’t a totally incompetent unit by any means. It’s a good thing, too, because outside of exchanging Jake Scott for Steve Hutchinson they are going to look much the same as they did last year.
The best news in the skill positions comes with the return of Kenny Britt. The wide receiver missed last year with a knee injury, but he’s healthy and ready to go. He’s a dynamic player who will headline a receiving corps with serious upside.
For the second year in a row the Titans have lost some key personnel on defense. Cortland Finnegan and Chris Hope have left the secondary, and defensive lineman Jason Jones now resides in Seattle. The secondary is going to be inexperienced and that’s a potential concern. It will especially be an issue if the pass rush is as weak as it was last year. Success at harassing opposing quarterbacks will rely on a couple of guys with high upside who have yet to reach their potential — Tennessee’s 2010 first rounder Derrick Harvey on the line and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, a first rounder for the Browns back in his day.
Overall, the theme on defense is youth. Youth can be a very good thing or a very bad thing. I’m not hugely optimistic in this case, but there is a chance they will be respectable.
2012 Tennessee Titans Schedule Analysis
It can be very challenging for a team to pick themselves up after a rough start to the season. For that reason it’s hard to get too excited about the Titans this year — their schedule is brutal.
They open up hosting New England, travel to San Diego, host Detroit, then travel to Houston. It would be hard to craft a schedule much more challenging than that — especially with a young and unproven secondary.
That’s not the end of the tough games, either. They travel to Buffalo and Green Bay and host Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston and the Jets.
Given all of that it’s hard to imagine a serious wild card push unless their young talent is better than expected. Hoping Houston falters and swooping in to win the division is likely their best chance of a postseason berth. What the tough start could lead to is an earlier start to the Locker era than some expect — there is no reason not to play him if the season is already mostly lost.
2012 Tennessee Titans NFL Futures Odds
The Titans are the clear second choice to win the AFC South at Bovada. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they sit at +450 while Houston is at -400. In other words, while it could happen it certainly doesn’t seem likely.
They are 25/1 to win the AFC. That ties them with Buffalo — a flattering comparison for the Titans in my eyes. They are 50/1 to win the Super Bowl.
Betonline opened their season win total at 7.5. That has fallen to seven, though the “over” is a strong -150 favorite so it could easily climb back up to 7.5 by the time the season kicks off.
2012 Tennessee Titans Predictions
I’m high on Locker and high on the future of this team. I don’t expect a great year this year, though.
The defense isn’t going to be a huge strength, I don’t really trust Johnson to turn back into the player he was, and the schedule is far too hard for this team. They won’t embarrass themselves, but the players can go ahead and plan their holidays for playoff time.
The win total is set about where it should be, but I’d lean to the under if I had to pick a side.
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