The Titans opened the 2019 season in spectacular fashion on Sunday, traveling to Cleveland and bashing the Browns 43-13. The offense put up 34 points — despite leaving some scores on the field — while the defense and special teams played up to lofty expectations. They also got some help from teams around the league as the Jaguars, Colts, and Texans all lost their openers — though it should be noted that those teams all played tougher opponents than the overhyped Browns — giving the Titans an early one game lead on the AFC South division race. However, before we get too carried away with making plans for home playoff games in Nissan Stadium this winter, this Titans team has to prove that they’re great, not just good.
The 2018 Titans were good. That team also produced at least two wins that were comparable to the win over the Browns on Sunday. In Week 4, they beat the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in a thrilling 26-23 overtime game to get to 3-1 on the season despite being without Marcus Mariota for one full game and parts of two others and starting five different tackles. They followed up that win — and the building hype that came with it — with two stinkers against the Bills and Ravens.
Later in the season, the Titans started to build some hype again, beating the Cowboys 28-14 in Dallas on Monday Night Football before returning home to wallop the Patriots 34-10 the next week. Once again, we believed they had turned the corner, and once again, they followed it up with two stinkers against the Colts and Texans.
Whether they began to believe the hype or just happened to have bad days following huge wins is impossible to know for sure, but it’s not hard to build a narrative that this is a young team that struggled to handle success — as many young teams do before they finally break through. Even going back to the 2016 and 2017 seasons, this has been a Titans tendency. The 47-25 blowout win over the Packers in 2016 was followed by a loss in Indy. The 2017 not-as-close-as-the-score-says 33-27 win over the Seahawks was followed by the 57-14 nightmare in Houston. Even the 36-22 Monday Night Football win over the Colts was followed with a 12-9 overtime win over a terrible Browns team (a win, but a truly awful performance by the Titans).
We will find out pretty quickly if the 2019 Titans are ready to be great. Over the next two weeks they’ll play two division rivals who are starting quarterbacks that weren’t expected to be the starter just two and a half weeks ago in Indy’s Jacoby Brissett and Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew. Both passers played well on Sunday so I don’t expect these to be walk overs by any means, but a great team would capitalize on these opportunities and stake an early claim to the AFC South.