Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday03)
Can’t say I didn’t miss you guys, because it’s been a while, and I have missed you guys. I’m back now and first thing’s first, I’m not the fantasy guy here at The Grandstand, but I will say this. Go pick up Marcus Mariota on your fantasy team right now! If you’re currently frustrated with your QB situation like me (I have Carson Palmer) he’s a viable option. Or if your usual starter is on a bye he’s a perfect plug and play. Perfect segway to my hot take that I’ve been itching to let loose to the world. The Tennessee Titans are going to win the AFC South, and the rest of the division might as well just accept it.
Full disclaimer: I do not like Mike Mularkey, he’s a poor head coach, and I pray the Titans front office relieves him of his duties after this season. The only positive he’s brought to the team is that he’s a former offensive line coach, which has paid dividends, and we’ll get into that in a little bit. Their offensive coordinator is Terry Robiskie, don’t know him? Well his son is Brian Robiskie the former Ohio State Buckeye star, Browns fans should remember Terry though. He was their OC, and interim head coach back in 2004. He’s mostly been a Wide Receiver coach his entire career, which is next to meaningless, because the Titans line up in pro sets more times than not, and are one of the few teams that actually roster a fullback. After all of that you’re probably asking yourself well how can the Titans win the division with those problems? Here’s how.
| Offensive Line
The Titans have the best offensive line in football that no one is talking about, and they have two of the best tackles in all of football. Taylor Lewan protects Mariota’s blind side, and does a pretty darn good job at it. Jack Conklin takes care of the right side, and he’s not in the business of letting Mariota’s jersey get dirty either. As of week five the Titans had the highest graded line in all of football per Pro Football Focus led by Lewan and Conklin, and I forgot to mention they’re without Chance Warmack who tore a tendon in his finger, and might miss the rest of the season. The Titans also lead in NFL in yards per carry at basically five yards a rush, they also lead the league in first downs obtained on the ground. If there’s one thing Mike Mularkey knows how to do, it’s coach an offensive line.
| DeMarco Murray
The second reason piggybacks off reason number one. DeMarco Murray has regained his 2014 form, and has absolutely benefitted from running behind an elite line once more. The Titans have also found the perfect balance between running the ball under center, and putting Mariota in the shotgun where he’s most comfortable. Murray didn’t succeed in Philly, not because the line was bad or Chip Kelly’s offense was too fast. He didn’t succeed, because Kelly’s offense requires a back that can run east and west just as well as he can run north and south, and Murray is a north, south runner. Murray also has reminded us that he is very usefully catching passes out of the backfield. He has at least five catches in all but two games this season. As Mariota has progressed he’s learned that the check-down is his best friend, and when you have a back like Murray, a check down isn’t the worst idea.
| Marcus Mariota is Figuring it Out
Speaking of Mariota, and his progression as a NFL quarterback. He’s slowly but surely figuring it out. Actually figuring it out faster than Jameis Winston in my opinion. It’s hard to progress as a quarterback when you’re constantly laying on the ground like Mariota was last season, and it got him hurt, but last season is a distant memory for Mariota, and that line. Mariota has stayed fairly clean all season. He’s only been sacked nine times this season which is tied for the fifth fewest in the league. As I mentioned before the Titans are in pro sets or in 12 personnel (one back, two TE) more times than not, so Mariota really has to become best friends with his tight end, and he has a good one in Delanie Walker. He’s having a down year currently, but whenever Mariota needs a catch you best believe he’s going to Walker. Whenever the Titans do spread it out though, Mariota makes the most of his chances, and has a new deep man in Rishard Matthews, who may only catch about four passes a game, but he’s averaging basically 15 yards a catch, and has scored a touchdown in each of the last two games.
The Titans have quietly put together a solid defense, and they have playmakers at all three levels. Brian Orakpo when healthy is a prolific pass rusher, Jurrell Casey is quietly one of the better defensive tackles as well. Wesley Woodyard is the captain of the defense, and there aren’t many inside linebackers I’d take over him. Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox patrol the NFL’s 11th ranked pass defense. The Titans also have the seventh ranked rush defense, and are ninth in total defense. The only reason they aren’t top ten in scoring defense is because they let the Vikings score two defensive touchdowns in week one, otherwise the Titans win that game, and the defensive never allowed an offensive touchdown. If you manage to score against Dick LeBeau’s defense it’s most likely because the offense turned it over, and gave the opposition good field position.
The Titans are going to win this division, because of those four reasons, and here’s two more reason. They have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, and their division isn’t that great. Colts can’t protect Luck or stop anyone. The Jags are the Jags, not much that can be done there, and the Texans are the ultimate mystery. So save this however you can, but the Titans are going to win this division, and I don’t want to see any shocked responses, because I forewarned you.