The Tennessee Titans apparantly have the second easiest strength of schedule behind the Houston Texans. Not too much weight should be placed on the strength of schedule. History shows, there truly is no telling which team(s) will surprise and which will disappoint.
QB Marcus Mariota is entering his fourth NFL season. His numbers are expected to ascend in OC Matt LaFleur’s offensive design.
What have been the tendencies in Mariota’s regular season ebb and flows in terms of the statistics he has compiled in three seasons? Let’s take a look.
First Four Games
In three years, Mariota typically has performed fairly decent. His 5-7 record isn’t great, but he has managed to produce some compelling stats in less than desirable offensive systems.
He has yielded a 15:10 TD:INT ratio. Mariota has tossed 2,737 yards and posts a 61% completion percentage.
Mariota eclipsed over 1,000 passing yards in his rookie campaign over the first four games. That number has declined in each of the past two seasons. He threw for 925 passing yards in 2016, and dropped to 792 last season.
His eight touchdown total in his rookie year has been his highest mark in the first quarter of the season. That number was cut in half in 2016, and dropped to three passing touchdowns last season.
The number of interceptions Mariota has thrown over the first quarter of the season has been fairly consistent. He threw three in 2015, four the following year and tossed three last season.
The Titans first quarter of the season is a tough one, and arguably may be the toughest. Two division opponents and the defending Super Bowl champions won’t be easy.
Second Four Games
In the second quarter of the season, Mariota boasts a 7-4 record. Statistically, some of his highest marks occur in the second chunk of play.
Mariota’s completion percentage has been the highest in the second quarter of the season. He posted a 68% completion percentage in 2015, followed by 69% in 2016 and 67% last year.
He has tallied a 18:5 TD:INT ratio during this stretch. Mariota’s 2,666 passing yards combined with a 68% completion average across three season indicates he has the potential to weather the storm if the Titans start the season flat.
His passing yards have fluctuated over the last three years. In his rookie campaign, he produced 590 passing yards. He nearly doubled that in 2016, finishing with 949. His production slightly declined last season, dropping to 727.
Mariota was superb in 2016 in weeks five through eight. He compiled a 10:1 TD:INT ratio and enjoyed a 69% completion percentage. He was unable to replicate the offensive production in 2017.
The Titans split a home and away game with the Bills and Ravens before traveling to London to face a tough Chargers defense. They’ll be afforded a week of rest to heal up before facing Dallas on Monday Night Football.
Outside of the Pittsburgh debacle last season, Mariota has shown up big on the prime time stage. The Titans will need Mariota to help the offensive attack move the ball and produce points - and the numbers suggest he will do so.
Third Four Games
This is where the numbers get interesting.
Mariota had a significant drop off in point-production in the third stanza of the 2017 season. In the two prior years, he managed to post a 17:5 TD:INT ratio and had 2,026 total passing yards. He posted a 6-6 record - with five of the losses stemming from his rookie and sophomore seasons.
Last season? Mariota’s TD:INT ratio was 4:7 and was the second time he threw more interceptions than touchdowns since the last quarter of his rookie year - a season he did not finish. However, he was 3-1 - but the wins weren’t pretty and the loss was stomach-churning.
The new offensive attack has to establish a second-half punch that will help the Titans either get back into a game or secure a second half lead to finish teams. Mariota will have a heavy hand in helping the team do this, but reliance on the young receiver corps is a cause for concern to some.
The third quarter of the 2018 season challenges the first quarter of the year as being the most difficult. Once again, the Titans will face two division opponents in the Texans and a Luck-led Colts squad, as well as the Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots - a team that sent Mariota and company home last postseason.
LaFleur’s offense will hopefully be gelling by this point in the year, but only time will tell. If the offense is struggling to find a groove and Mariota struggles to have formidable chemistry with his receiving weapons, this could be a make or break period for qualifying for the playoffs.
Final Four Games
This chunk is tough to quantify - mainly due to Mariota having missed some time during the later portion of his first and second year.
In a smaller sample size, Mariota has totaled 1,543 passing yards, yielded a 4:5 TD:INT ratio and had a 59% completion average over three seasons. His record? 4-6.
This is the area LaFleur and his coaching staff must improve not only Mariota’s individual performance, but the team as a whole. Last season, we witnessed the defense drag the team into the postseason by winning some grueling battles. The stalling offense just couldn’t find the end zone.
In 2018, the offensive approach must set the tempo for playing “fast and aggressive”. The Titans must be able to establish a tempo early, and Mariota is a tone-setting QB.
How does he factor down the stretch? Staying healthy - but that’s obvious. The second - and most important way he can factor into success down the stretch? By having a firm command of the offense, level of comfort and trust in his weapons (both old and new) and confidence that his coaches are putting him in the best position to show out.
Mariota could improve his average numbers across each quarter of the seasons - but the most important will be the final four games. The stretch doesn’t seem too bad, but as mentioned above - you never know who will surprise and who will disappoint.