Most teams who’ve faced what the Titans have faced this early into the season wouldn’t have one win to their name.
New coaching regime.
Pro Bowl Tight End out for season.
Facing two tough division opponents in the first four weeks, one of which is considered to have the top defense in the league.
Leading receiving weapon over the past two seasons asking for his release.
Shuffling offensive line duties and filling holes with lower depth and practice squad players.
Opening the season on the road in a THE LONGEST GAME IN NFL HISTORY.
Think about it. The laundry list above cannot show the depth of what this Titans team has not only had to face - but had to overcome.
And yet, the Titans lead the AFC South with two division wins already in the bag.
How can this team still be so far off the radar?
Small Market Effect
The Titans - at least on a national scale - are in a lose-lose situation heading into the Philadelphia game.
If the Titans win, the national media is guaranteed to place blame on Carson Wentz’s injury rust, will talk about the lack of depth (health-wise) of Philly’s receivers and running backs and the loss of defensive back Rodney McLeod for the season.
If the Titans lose, the national media will not show the same sentiment. Instead, they will likely point out how Marcus Mariota is not a franchise quarterback, blame a new coaching staff and possibly refer to the Titans hard fought wins over Houston and Jacksonville as fluky.
It’s sad, but true.
In some of the biggest games in recent memory, credit was nearly obsolete outside of a few analysts here and there who gave the Titans their due. As remarkable of a comeback the playoff win at Arrowhead was, the narrative focused on how Andy Reid collapsed and ran a poor game plan or how Alex Smith can’t be counted on when it really matters.
How about the Titans defensive performance following the exit of Travis Kelce? How about Derrick Henry turning it on? How about Mariota throwing and catching a touchdown AND making a key block that secured the first playoff win in what felt like forever?
Is that not the essence of a good sports story?
How about the fact that the Titans swept the Jaguars and willed themselves into the playoffs in the final week of play? The stiff-arm heard round the word wasn’t even within an earshot of the national media.
Even when the Titans molly-wopped the Green Bay Packers in the 2016 season, there was no national fan fare.
The Rodney Dangerfield effect continues to linger. But that’s perfectly fine.
For The Boys
Three simple words.
For. The. Boys.
The belief and confidence the Titans players possess within that locker room is started to spill over. A swag is brewing and the coaches are doing everything they can do to make sure all the ingredients are measured to make the flavor just right.
Taylor Lewan - although he won’t admit it - was the originator of the “For The Boys” mantra. The tight-knit locker room has come together and HC Mike Vrabel and his coaching staff are doing a good job in keeping the thread snug. Outside of losing Rishard Matthews, the group’s bond remains unwavering.
Lewan gets his bash-buddy back in Jack Conklin, who makes his debut against a tough Eagles defensive front. If Conklin can shake the cobwebs early, the offense may pick up speed.
Defensively, the Titans continue to develop a top defensive front. With the secondary peppered with playmakers, things are starting to come together for DC Dean Pees. Kamalei Correa, who missed last week with a back, is expected to play and continue to cause disruption.
As the season trudges on, the Titans are seemingly begin to restore health. Offensively, the comfort will continue to grow week to week and will see a boost with healthy players resuming their roles offensively.
A win against the Eagles is not as improbable as some may have speculated prior to the season.
If when the smoke clears Sunday and the Titans sit at 3-1 with two division wins, don’t pay no mind to what the “experts” say or don’t say about this team. Just know that the lack of recognition will continue to serve as motivation throughout the year.