2019 NFL Power Rankings:
No. 23 Tennessee Titans
If Marcus Mariota makes it past Week 8 as the Titans' starter, I'll die my beard blue. I'm not kidding. I'll participate in some madness and die the bane of my existence Titans colors. Lackluster quarterback play only gets you so far unless someone like Ezekiel Elliott sits in your backfield. Not only is this a contract year for Mariota, so the pressure's turned up. Their backup, Ryan Tannehill -- who was subpar in Miami -- has started all 88 games of his career and could thrive in a horizontal offense. And you can combine Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis into one tailback, but they still aren't "Zeke" -- there's a reason why he's about to break the bank and be top two highest-paid at his position. The cards aren't exactly in favor of a guy who hasn't reached 15 touchdown passes in the past two seasons. Patience isn’t a virtue in the NFL. The clock continues to tick for young Marcus.
Mike Vrabel's offensive system resembles that of the Patriots. It's only right as a former henchman under Bill Belichick, who spent time coaching alongside another genius from the Belichick Tree of Excellence in Houston's Bill O'Brien. In a scheme predicated on a strong running game and a quick-strike passing attack, the Titans overachieved during the 2019 offseason. They signed a rising slot machine in Adam Humphries, who tallied career highs in receptions (76), receiving yards (876) and touchdown grabs (five) during his final season in Tampa Bay. Offensive guard Rodger Saffold paved the way for Todd Gurley in Los Angeles. Second-round pick AJ Brown set Ole Miss' record for career receiving yards (2,984) and adds juice/scheme versatility to the O. With a plethora of new pieces who fit the puzzle, Mariota has a strong returning supporting class. Corey Davis -- the team's leading receiver in 2018 --, bruiser Derrick Henry, swiss-army-knife Dion Lewis, a healthy Delanie Walker, and a solid group upfront. Despite what we've seen from Mariota in the past, everything is setup for him to succeed. Will he secure the bag or run away from it?
In 2018, Tennessee's defense ranked in the top-10 in yards allowed (333.4) and third in points (18.9). The team resigned proverbial wood-layer Kenny Vaccaro. Added sack-master Cameron Wake from the Dolphins and returned Pro Bowlers Jurrell Casey, "Big Bag" Kevin Byard and Wesley Woodyard. There shouldn't be any reason the Titans don't remain among the league's top defenses — not a single one.
Offensive Players to Watch: Marcus Mariota and the whole fucking receiving core.
Defensive Players to Watch: Harold Landry, Adoree Jackson, Rashaan Evans, Malcolm Butler
Fantasy Players to Watch: Adam Humphries (PPR stud), AJ Brown, Derrick Henry (goal line touches), Corey Davis (red-zone cheat code), Titans Defense.
Verdict: Andrew Luck's retirement leaves the AFC South wide open, but the Titans won’t be returning to the dance in 2019. Houston's much too good. Jacksonville should bounce back after a horrendous season mired by dysfunction. Tennessee just isn’t that good. 7-9.