NFL Wire News

Titans believe they can challenge in AFC South

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The Sports Xchange

NASHVILLE – The AFC South isn’t exactly a juggernaut through the first quarter of the NFL season.

The Tennessee Titans, who were idle on Sunday with their bye week, actually moved up in the standings into second place by themselves in this rag-tag division, where the struggling Indianapolis Colts hold a half-game lead with a 2-2 mark, while the Titans sit at 1-2, knowing that had they finished off the Colts two weeks ago, they would be occupying first place in the division as the only team above .500. As it is, with the South very mediocre, the Titans believe that it still could be theirs for the taking, if they can find a way to win some games, rather than letting them slip away.

After all, the Colts are suddenly looking very mortal, the Jaguars couldn’t beat them Sunday even though Indy was without Andrew Luck, and the Texans have major quarterback issues staring them in the face.

What it adds up to is the chance for the Titans to not only improve, but actually catapult themselves into contention in a struggling division in a season where otherwise they would still be considered rebuilding. For instance, certainly they wouldn’t have such optimism at the present in any other division in the conference.

“It’s still early. I’m sure that you’re aware of where it is. But it’s still early,” Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “There are a lot of games left to play. After playing Indy and feeling like it was a game that we should have won, we certainly feel like we can compete. If we take care of our business, that will work itself out. We feel like we’re a team where if we can eliminate a few of our mistakes and a few of our things that we really haven’t done well, that we’re really close to being a good football team.”

The Titans have a chance to get themselves back in the race simply for the fact that they are home for three straight weeks, beginning Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said he believes the Titans simply must stay the course and clean up some of the penalties and turnovers that have plagued them, beginning this week against the Bills.

“It all starts with one game at a time. If you focus way too far ahead, you lose what’s going on in the moment. It starts with getting ready for Buffalo, and then when the season is at an end, hopefully we’ll like where we’re at,” he said.

REPORT CARD AFTER THREE GAMES

–PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus. Marcus Mariota has injected life into the Titans passing game. Mariota is 61 of 97 through three games for 833 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Receivers Kendall Wright and tight end Delanie Walker have been the best options, but rookie Dorial Green-Beckham is showing signs of being a solid red-zone target. The one setback is the offensive line has struggled at times in protection, leading to 12 sacks.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B. There is no lead horse in the backfield for the Titans, but still Tennessee is 10th in the NFL in rushing using the three-pronged attack of Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster and Antonio Andrews. While none of those are likely candidates for your fantasy team, the Titans have done a decent job of mixing and matching, which is far better than a year ago when the Titans were all too quick to abandon the run.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. The numbers here are odd, because the Titans are 20th in the league in passing average, but sixth in passing yards per game. The pass rush is improved with the addition of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan’s early-season play. But the secondary has had issues with injuries. The return of Jason McCourty should help solidify this going forward. He has been out since early August with a groin injury that required surgery.

–RUN DEFENSE: D. The Titans need to do a better job of stopping the run, as they are allowing 113.7 yards per game. The main thing is they need to be more consistent, as they have been solid at times, and then been gashed at other times.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B. No real issues positive or negative for the Titans on special teams. The biggest thing is that Ryan Succop has been perfect on field-goal and extra-point tries thus far, something that seems to be far from a given this season in the NFL. The return game has been so-so, but has not turned the football over.

COACHING: C. It is a work in progress in trying to change the culture for a team that finished 2-14 a year ago. But perhaps it is slowly but surely evolving. Giving away what should have been a victory over the Colts just before the bye week won’t help speed up that process, though. But head coach Ken Whisenhunt at least has his players buying in, something that didn’t appear to happen last year.


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