This may come as a big surprise to most people who come across this, but what if I told you this year's Titans squad has a chance to mirror last year's Jaguars' run to the AFC Championship? I'll break down how, and why, the Titans could be a good pick for this year's playoff sleeper.
When you think 2017 Jaguars, you think about their defense. Well, the 2018 Titans are just as good as that unit. Here's a look at the numbers, according to www.pro-football-reference.com.
Points Against: Jaguars - 16.8 (2nd) | Titans - 16.8 (1st)
Yards Allowed: Jaguars - 286.1 (2nd) | Titans - 328.0 (6th)
Passing Yards Allowed: Jaguars - 169.8 (3rd) | Titans - 228.2 (6th)
Passing Touchdowns Allowed: Jaguars - 17 (3rd) | Titans (1st) *on pace to allow 19
Rushing Yards Allowed: Jaguars - 1,860 (21st) | Titans (10th) *on pace to allow 1,596
Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: Jaguars - 9 (6th) | Titans (4th) *on pace to allow 7
Points Per Drive: Jaguars - 1.24 (1st) | Titans - 1.59 (3rd)
Red Zone Defense: Jaguars - 39.3% (2nd) | Titans - 34.8% (1st)
This Titans' defense may bend at times, but they almost never break. Against quarterbacks with the names of Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Deshaun Watson, and Carson Wentz, the Titans have only allowed an average of 17.5 PPG and are 3-1. They could be 4-0, but a failed 2-point conversion in the final seconds against the Chargers in London prevented that from coming into fruition. Moving forward, they should always have a chance to at least keep a game close, at the bare minimum.
On the other side of the football, Marcus Mariota has finally looked 100% healthy, after shedding the glove on his throwing hand. Since the bye week, against what were two top 11 defenses, Mariota has completed 70% of his passes, racking up over 540 total yards and five touchdowns, with a QB rating over 122. His play significantly improved the scoring average, as they average score has been 31-12 during this stretch.
On the ground, the Jaguars and Titans can be compared, once again. The top two rushers for the Jaguars combined for 380 carries for 1,422 yards and 10 touchdowns. The combo of thunder and lightning, Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are on pace to finish with 377 carries for 1,340 yards and 9 touchdowns. Bortles also did a fair amount of damage for Jacksonville, as he had 322 yards and two more scores. Mariota is on pace for 510 yards and four touchdowns.
Another thing that could come into play is something I don't think a lot of people look at... time of possession. The Titans are currently ranked 2nd in T.O.P. per offensive drive, according to www.pro-football-reference.com. This means the opposing defense is getting tired, while theirs is resting up to go out and stop the opposing offense from scoring. Over the past two weeks, the Titans hold a +14:48 possession time differential. In other words, they've had the ball for an entire quarter more than their opponents. If the offense can keep being physical and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, with the type of quarterback play they have right now, they could completely change their image.
Onto the last half of the schedule. After these back-to-back road games, versus the Colts and the Texans (a game that could ultimately decide the division), the Titans finish their season with four of their last five games at home. Another big thing to take into consideration is the strength of their opponents. Only two of the remaining seven games are against teams with a record over .500. The combined overall record of all teams is 23-31. That's a winning percentage of just 42%. Them winning out and finishing 12-4 isn't at all out of the realm of possibility with the way Head Coach Mike Vrabel has his team playing. They're hungry, and they may be peaking at just the right time.
First mage taken from: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/nov/11/nfl-capsules-titans-sack-tom-brady-upset-patriots-/
Second image taken from: https://titanswire.usatoday.com/2018/11/09/titans-qb-marcus-mariota-has-been-solid-on-third-down/
Third image taken from: https://www.wcvb.com/article/patriots-will-face-former-player-in-titans-head-coach-mike-vrabel/24791334