The 2015 Tennessee Titans are a curious case. Here’s the best way I can put it:
Imagine Bono, Angus Young, Neil Peart, Tom Morello and Slash being thrown into a room and forming a band. They’re coming out with an album in the fall. First thing you’d do upon learning this, obviously, is hop on iTunes and preorder that s**t in a heartbeat. Because you were raised right and dad always made sure you listened to good music.
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But after the overwhelming happiness of it all subsided, you would probably start to look those names and realize they don’t naturally fit together. Give them some time to work together and they’ll definitely put out a fantastic album. But those first few recording sessions behind the scenes would be all about building chemistry and figuring things out.
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Now to put that into football terms, if you replace Bono with the guy from Smash Mouth, Angus Young with Bille Joe Armstrong and Neil Peart with the drummer from my eighth grade rock band (it was a phase), you have the 2015 Titans. They have a few weaknesses, but they also have some talent and could become a formidable product once they mesh. Assessing what the team’s first record will be like (how’s that for a double entendre?), however, is the challenge.
Fans in Nashville should have every reason to believe this season won’t be like last. On paper, the team is miles ahead of where it was this time last year. Second-overall pick Marcus Mariota is now under center, the receiving corps has been overhauled, Dick LeBeau is calling the shots on defense, and the front office also added some new toys for him to play with on defense. But does that mean a playoff appearance should be the expectation in 2015? Perhaps not.
Setting sights on the postseason would be a healthy goal for the Titans in 2015. But when they’re on their couches watching the Super Bowl in February (let’s address this now: they’re not going to the Super Bowl), players and coaches should be able to rest easy with a 6-10 record. Anything higher would signify the group managed to come together much faster than anticipated, and that several players exceeded expectations. But 6-10? That’s healthy improvement.
The Titans are the third-best team in the AFC South. The Colts are a sexy pick early on to win the Super Bowl, and should have no problem taking two wins from Tennessee. The Texans exceeded expectations going 9-7 a year ago, but made the necessary offseason moves to make repeating that record a reasonable expectation. They’re a safe bet to take at least one game in the season series. But the Titans should be able to take both games from an inferior Jacksonville squad. That’s three division wins, already surpassing the team’s total number from a season ago.
May 26, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans first round draft pick quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes during OTA drills at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Then there’s the other eight games on tab. The computers didn’t do Tennessee any favors, giving them the Patriots, Saints, Dolphins, Panthers and Bills. New Orleans and Buffalo stand as the two most winnable games from that list, while there are two more wins to be had in weeks 1 and 2 against Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
And while record is all well and good, the ultimate “win” for the Titans in 2015 will be seeing the offense click. Getting Bishop Sankey on track, seeing Mariota get comfy and having the receivers establish their roles will set the 2016 team up to have an eye on the playoffs.
Next offseason’s free agent class is shaping up to be one of the best the league has ever seen, and with the city of Nashville already proving to have some recruiting power, showing potential additions that the Titans are for real could position Tennessee quite nicely next summer.
Bottom line: Make this “team” a team, win the games you should, and 2015 will be a win.
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