Titans QB Marcus Mariota threw for 3,426 yards in 2016, completing 61% of his passes for 26 majors and nine picks
The Tennessee Titans started 1-3 SU last year but finished strong, going 4-1 SU/ATS in their final five games. The one loss was a devastating one, with Marcus Mariota fracturing his right fibula at Jacksonville. Off-season rehab has been slow and steady but Titans HC Mike Mularkey is confident his starting QB will be 100-percent for Week 1 against Oakland.
Titans RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring) was another big part of the team’s turnaround and together with Derrick Henry, formed one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the league. Tennessee was third in rushing yards with 137 per game and fourth in rushing first downs with 115. Their offensive line was one of the most improved units in football last year. When the season began they were considered a detriment, ranking 25th at Pro Football Focus, but by Week 16 when Mariota went down, we had them as the fourth-best unit overall.
Tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan bookend the line and help protect Mariota’s blindspots. The net result was a 59.1 Effective Completion Percentage which is adjusted completions (beyond line of scrimmage) divided by total attempts. To put that in perspective, Mariota ranked first in the league ahead of Matt Ryan (53.7), Andrew Luck (50.8) and Dak Prescott (50.2).
LAST YEAR’S RECORD & 2017 NFL FUTURES
Win-Loss: 9-7 SU and 8-8 ATS
Over/Under: 10-5-1 O/U
Noteworthy: Mariota improved his numbers across the board in 2016, finishing 11th on ESPN’s raw QB rating chart. Mariota experienced notable year-after-year gains in TD rate, interception rate and adjusted yards/attempt average.
The Titans’ 9-7 record marks their first season since 2011 with a win percentage over .500. After winning a total of five games in 2014-15, the oddsmaker’s expectation is that they are ready to take up permanent residence in the winning bracket of this AFC South and the action on their SWT has been even throughout the summer. Tennessee’s odds to make the playoffs are set at +150 and if they make the trip, it will be their first since 2008.
TITANS BOTTOM LINE: DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS
With all the praise being heaped on Tennessee’s offense, we need to consider what the defense and special teams are capable of. Those units ranked 25th and 20th overall last year and combined, that’s worse than any of the six AFC playoff teams.
First round pick Adoree’ Jackson joins a revamped secondary that also brought in Johnathan Cyprien (Jags) and Logan Ryan (Patriots). Ryan led the Pats with 92 tackles last season and will start at corner. Second-year CB LeShaun Smith is in the mix after a decent finish to his rookie campaign. With Kevin Byard’s instincts also improving down the stretch, this unit is poised for a big advance.
The front seven isn’t bad, just average, and depth is a concern. Free agent NT Sylvester Williams doesn’t boost the ratings much but he does add size. Ideally, D-Co Dick LeBeau’s increased confidence in his backend will free up the front line to use some different looks.
Punting and poor punt coverage were killers for Tennessee and they also gave up more non-offensive TDs (8) than any other team in the league. Special teams coach Steve Hoffman brought in some speed that will have an immediate impact on this department and one thing that cannot be overlooked is the fact that from 2015 to `16, the Titans already went from 28th to 19th in overall special teams. Kicker Ryan Succop hit a career-high 91.7-percent of his field goal attempts last year and he’s not going to hurt this team. If the other facets improve even marginally, we’re looking at a strong shot for nine-plus wins.
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