Why the Titans won’t win 10 games in 2008

Rather than replicate a lot of what Drexel said in his preview, or what we’ve said in other posts here, I’ll be a negative nelly, and tell you why I don’t expect the Titans to win 10 (or more) games in 2008.
1. Injuries
The Titans were exceptionally healthy in 2007-of the starters, only Albert Hayensworth (4), Chris Hope (5), and, if you want to count him, Brandon Jones (7) missed as many as 4 games. NFL teams simply aren’t able to maintain that kind of health every year, and it’s likely the Titans will suffer more injuries to key players than they had in 2007. Ceteris paribus, a team with more injuries will be worse.
2. Opposing Quarterbacks
The Titans last year had games against Drew Brees before the Saints had an offensive line, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, David Carr, Quinn Gray, Brodie Croyle, and Jim Sorgi. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row, as I believe it’s safe to describe each of those quarterbacks as “below average.” This year, the only opponents I see as likely to be below average at QB are MIN, BAL, KC, and CHI. The Titans may get lucky and see backup QBs again, but you can’t count on that.
3. Better Overall Opponents
The Titans last year played the NFC South and AFC West. While the NFC North is probably at about the same level as the NFC South was last year, the AFC North represents a clear upgrade on the AFC West. The Titans will be hard-pressed to match their 5-3 record from last year.
4. Defensive Regression
One of the key lessons from Pro Football Prospectus 2007, which the local Bear fans ignored to their own detriment last season, is that defenses tend to be less consistently good than offenses. The Titans’ defense was mediocre to poor in 2006, and mediocre to poor in 2007 when Albert was out. I expect them to be better than they were in 2006, but it’s very unlikely they’ll be as good as they were in 2007.
5. Offensive Line Changes
The key to the Titans’ offensive success last year was excellent play by the offensive line. That unit has two new starters in Scott and Amano. While I’m confident the offensive line should be a strength by the end of the year, that likely won’t be the case early.
6. Lack of Improvement in the Passing Game
The Titans were mediocre at best throwing the ball in 2006. Whether it’s the quarterback, the wide receivers, or both (my answer), the early indications suggest the passing game hasn’t advanced to the point it will good enough in 2008 to carry a team that has problems running the ball.
7. Luck in Close Games
The Titans went 2-4 last year in games decided by 10+ points, and 6-3 in games decided by 7 or fewer points. One of those is more representative of a team’s actual ability, and it’s not winning close games. With more average luck, the Titans don’t win 10 games in 2007. With more average luck, the Titans won’t win 10 games in 2008.
Overall
I don’t like to predict records-the only good way to do it is to pick each and every game, but every year there will be 1-3 games you think there’s no way the team will win that they win, and ditto games they will lose. Football Outsiders’ DVOA predicts a 7-9 record for the Titans in 2007, with only a 21% chance of making winning 9+ games (PFP08), and an 18.6% chance of making the playoffs. I think the Titans will be better than that, but not much better. Call it 8-8, and 4th in the AFC South.
Disheartened? Remember, I gave the Titans only a minimal shot of making the playoffs at this time last year, and I was wrong. I could easily be wrong again, though of course I don’t think I am. Disagree? Let me know, and let me know why.

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