Before I go any further, this doesn't mean that I think that the Texans and/or Jaguars are proven threats to Indy's crown right now, but I think that you should know that I don't think that the Titans are either. Remember that while the secondary is strong, it still features Chris Hope as the starting safety and the wildly inconsistent Michael Griffin. Griffin has a chance to really step his game up this year, but I don't know if I can say the same about Hope. He's had a good run, but the guy is just at the end of his rope and it might be time to hang 'em up in a season or two.
For the most part, we're fairly uncertain about the interior of our offensive line. Remember, Eugene Amano is one season removed from being the worst center in all of football. The left guard position is still shrouded in mystery as Leroy Harris will attempt to hold down the fort. I have my doubts about whether the combination of Amano and Harris can keep talented tackle tandems like Terrence Knighton and Tyson Alualu out of the backfield.
I feel like we're also putting a lot of faith in a quarterback who, in some ways, had a worse season than Kerry Collins last year. Hasselbeck has a proven track record and dealt with some injury problems last year, but part of me worries that all of those who curse Collins for his lack of mobility and arm strength will be doing the same come week six or so. Speaking of Hasselbeck, it's said that his receiver corp here in Tennessee will be an improvement over the one he was working with in Seattle. That's probably true in most regards, but I've said it before and I'll say it again, this offense will go nowhere without Kenny Britt. The difference last year was night and day in games that he missed. Jared Cook should, should, take some pressure off of Britt to be a top receiving threat every week, but if one or the other go down, the team could be in some serious trouble from an offensive standpoint.
Perhaps the biggest reason that I don't think that this team is capable of reaching the playoffs this year is the fact that the schedule is going to be very, very tough. This year, the Titans play two Super Bowl favorites in their first five games with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Immediately, you can almost pencil in two auto-losses there. Jacksonville should be a win, as should Denver, but winning at Cleveland could be a problem, especially if Colt McCoy has made any progress at all. It doesn't get any easier after the bye week as the Titans play two divisional opponents right out of the gate. Houston is a team that I'm really sweating right now. Jonathon Joseph is no joke and Danieal Manning replaces one of the worst pass covering safeties in the game, so it'd be hard for them to not be better. I have my doubts that this year's Titans can handle this year's Texans, especially with Ben Tate, last year's second round pick, helping to spell last year's rushing title winner, Arian Foster. Add in a lethal passing offense with the perhaps triumphant return of Owen Daniels and some smart draft picks that upgraded the front seven and you have a pretty safe bet for second place.
Indianapolis will have our number this year. As long as Peyton lines up behind center for the Colts, or at least until he actually starts to show signs of a decline, they should be divisional favorites, no questions asked. I'm not terribly concerned with the Jaguars, but even they have made some serious efforts to upgrade a flat out awful defense with the signings of Dawan Landry and Paul Posluszny. For some reason, that doesn't scare me as much as it probably should, we seem to have the upper hand against these guys, even in the off years.
As if the divisional games weren't tough enough, the Titans go toe-to-toe with the deepest division in football, the NFC South. The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs games will almost certainly be losses. I can all but guarantee we see an unprepared Cam Newton starting for the Panthers in week ten, so I think we have a good shot of beating Carolina on the road.
Look, there are many reasons to expect that this year will be different. There's a feeling in the air that's electric. We're all stoked to have football back and expect big things out of this group. Some of us feel it just might take awhile. There are still holes to be filled and the dreaded injury bug could strike at any time, so it's not easy to just slap a number on the season win total like I'd like to, but for now, I've upped my win total from three to six with wins coming against Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, Carolina, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. There's work to be done, but the uphill battle looks a little less hopeless than it did two months ago.