Maybe the Titans will win 10 games after all

The week before the season opener against the Jaguars, I wrote a post explaining why I thought the Titans wouldn’t win 10 games in 2008. Five weeks into the season, the Titans are already halfway to that win total I didn’t think they’d reach for the entire year. So, where did I go wrong in my assessment?
1. Injuries
The Titans were very healthy in 2007, and so far they’ve been very healthy in 2008. In fact, the only projected starters to miss any time thus far have been Vince Young and Justin Gage. Luckily enough, QB and WR are the two positions where the Titans had the best depth, or perhaps it’s better to describe them as the positions where the value of the starter over the backup was lowest (including perhaps negative at quarterback).
2. Opposing Quarterbacks
I properly pegged MIN and BAL to be two teams the Titans played that would get below average quarterbacking. I missed, though, that the Jaguars would play much of the season-opening game without any of their 3 starting interior offensive linemen, as C Brad Meester missed the game (something knowable) and starting G’s Maurice Williams and Chris Naeole both suffered season-ending injuries. Without them, the Titans were able to dominate the Jags’ backups, with a noticeable negative effect on David Garrard’s play-predictable, with a crystal ball. I also missed the poor performance of the Texans offense and the implosion of the Bengals. The Titans should, however, see a strong slate of opposing quarterbacks as the year goes on, with only KC, CLE, and possibly HOU and DET poor passing teams.
3. Better Overall Opponents
So far, the Titans are 3-0 against the NFC North and AFC North, and have played 2 of the 4 road games. Note, though, that none of the 3 teams has a winning record-BAL is 2-2, MIN 2-3, and CIN winless at 0-5. The Titans have yet to play the division leaders, PIT and CHI, and I still see GB as the most talented team in the NFC North. Still, with CLE on the schedule, it looks likely the Titans will match or better last year’s 5-3 record in these 8 games, contrary to my preseason expectations.
4. Defensive Regression
Most defenses aren’t really good multiple years in a row. Sometimes teams are-BAL for a couple years, TB, CHI, and the Titans seem to be in that same special category. This looks like a clear miss so far.
5. Offensive Line Changes
I still think this has been somewhat of an issue for the Titans, as pressure has been created by what looks like unfamiliarity. Plus, I still think Eugene Amano has been a downgrade at the LG position. Still, the Titans haven’t seen the sort of wholesale problems up the middle that plagued the Jaguars.
6. Lack of Improvement in the Passing Game
Hey, I get one right. The Titans have been a mediocre passing offense thus far in 2008 by pretty much any measure you care to name. Thankfully, the defense has been good enough to keep this from being much of a problem so far. Later in the year, though, the offense’s inability to throw the ball successfully will cost the Titans at least one game.
7. Luck in Close Games
The Titans last year won 2 games by 10+ points. The Titans this year have won 3+ games by 10+ points. Luck matters less if you’re not playing close games. So far, the Titans have had one notable piece of luck-the roughing the passer call on Suggs. Yes, I think it was a penalty, but I’ve seen similar plays not called, and without that call, the Titans likely punt the ball away and quite possibly enter the bye week with a loss.
So, since the Titans would have to go 4-7 or worse not to finish with 10+ wins, how will they do? That’s another post, probably as part of a midseason review. Next up from me, the unfortunately delayed look at MLB Stephen Tulloch’s start against the Vikings.

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