Tennessee Titans: Stage now set for playoff run – despite rocky start

If on the eve of the regular season opener I told the casual Tennessee Titans fan that quarterback Marcus Mariota would miss a game and a half with a hamstring injury, while being restricted from running in two others.

That 5th overall pick Corey Davis would miss all but six quarters with his own hamstring injury. That starting free agent safety Johnathan Cyprien would miss six games.

That DeMarco Murray, last year’s AFC rushing leader, would be hobbled and less than 100% in every game with a multitude of bumps and bruises.

That the offensive line that was so dominant last season failed to perform at that level for all but two games.

That the defensive front seven that collapsed the pocket on a regular basis last season are failing to generate consistent pressure.

Knowing this, if I were to then tell you that Tennessee would enter their week 8 bye tied atop the AFC South with a 4-3 record, I’m sure that nine out of ten of those fans would take it in a heartbeat.

No, the Titans haven’t looked like the trendy pick to win the AFC South week in and week out, especially last week in Cleveland.

No, the exotic smash mouth approach hasn’t looked as effective as it did last season.

And no, the Titans haven’t received much bang for their buck from their high-profile offseason acquisitions so far this season.

But at the end of the day the team has a better record than last season after seven games, and will come out of their bye in week 9 with their goals still in tact.

And the stars are starting to align to reach those goals.

The bye week came at a perfect time as the Titans are reported to get several players healthy, and a key starter back on offense.

Davis is scheduled to return for Tennessee’s week 9 tilt against the Baltimore Ravens, and should help jump-start an offense in desperate need of a playmaker in the passing game.

Cyprien is also slated to return shortly after the bye, giving Tennessee’s defense a much-needed tackling machine…as well as additional depth in the secondary.

After surviving an early schedule that included four playoff teams from 2016, as well as a vastly improved Jacksonville team, the Titans’ home stretch should bode well in their favor.

Five of Tennessee’s remaining nine games are at home, where they are 6-1 in their last seven in Nissan Stadium. And of those games, the Titans’ opponents have a combined record of 27-34.

Not exactly a gauntlet if Tennessee plays to their potential, key word being if….

While Titans fans have no choice but to wait and see how the remainder of the season unfolds, they do have the choice of seeing the start of the season as glass half empty or glass half full.

Remember, this is a team that went 5-27 in 2014 and 2015, endured a complete overhaul in the front office in 2016, and may have overachieved while enjoying a franchise record increase in wins last season.

The realistic goal for a team in this scenario is 10 wins and a shot at winning the division.

As bad as they’ve looked the last two weeks, they still came away victorious. We’d have a much different discussion today had the Titans lost those games and were 2-5 today.

The season would be all but over.

Instead, the Titans survived injuries to key players, questionable play calling, and close calls to inferior teams during the toughest part of their schedule.

That in itself is reason enough to be excited for the second half of the season.

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