I’m All-In on “Team Mariota” – Here’s Why

I’ve written a lot about Marcus Mariota. In case you missed all those pieces, here is a quick recap about my feelings on the 5th year quarterback:

1. I was not convinced he was the right choice when the Titans drafted him.
2. I quickly became convinced that I was completely wrong about point 1.
3. I would adopt Marcus Mariota if he needed a family. (Marcus, if you need a Middle Tennessee family, we are here for you.)
4. I believe he can lead the Titans to a Super Bowl.

That sums it up. I am well aware of what his detractors say. I know there are a surprising number of Titans’ fans who are ready to move on from Mariota. I can’t say I agree with that perspective, but I am aware of it. I know when I listen to Nashville talk radio, scan Titans Twitter, or talk to fans, I encounter many naysayers.

I get it. After two seasons, Marcus Mariota looked like an up-and-coming franchise QB. He was everything the team could want, both on and off the field. He put up fantastic numbers that second season. He was nearly unstoppable in the red zone. He was great in the final minutes of a game. He was unflappable, poised, accurate, and his numbers in the second half of that season were as good as any QB in the league. He was special.

Then he broke his leg. His next two seasons have been statistically uneven, to put it mildly. He is improving in some areas (completion percentage for example) and regressing in others (touchdowns, interceptions). He is also struggling to stay as healthy as many would like to see – though he misses far less time than the non-believers would have the rest of us believe. Yet still, even his most loyal and passionate fans (myself included) have to admit that the last two seasons have been frustrating and disappointing from a numerical standpoint.

That’s why this article won’t be about stats. Based on Mariota’s numbers the last two seasons, I can’t really present a strong defense from a statistical perspective, though I believe he has shown enough, even with the injuries to prove he is a solid NFL QB. This is not a deep-dive into advanced analytics and all that stuff. I’m going with my gut feelings on this one. I realize that is absurd to many and you have my permission to stop reading at this point. I will say, I don’t believe the facts disprove my feelings. While the facts don’t exactly bolster my feelings, I do think they can walk hand-in-hand with them.

So, what do I feel? It’s simple actually. I’ve been a Titans’ fan since day one. I watched this team reach the Super Bowl, make the playoffs multiple times, and have a great multi-year run with a franchise QB leading the way. Steve McNair was that QB. He dealt with many of the same things Mariota deals with, missing time or playing far below 100% due to one injury after another. Yet the team was always competitive while McNair was the guy. They won more than they lost. McNair rewarded the team with multiple playoff runs, an MVP award, and one play away from taking the Super Bowl to overtime.

After McNair, the Titans took a decade long journey in the wasteland that hits almost every team without a franchise QB. I watched a team struggle, stumble, and fall apart with a rotating cast of average to below average QBs. The fortunes of this team, and most NFL teams, are tied directly to their starting QB. That is not to say the QB deserves all the credit when a team wins. But it does mean that if your team lacks a franchise-type QB, your team will probably not have any sustained success. It was a bleak time for Tennessee Titans’ fans. After a season where they were clearly one of the worst, if not the absolute worst team in the NFL, they finally had one of the top picks in the draft and they selected Marcus Mariota. From the day until now, this team has been different.

How different? Well, since Mariota was drafted, the Titans have had a winning record for 3 of his 4 years. (3 in a row if you want to get specific.) A Mariota led Titans team did something no other Titans team has ever done: they had a winning record three years in a row. Mariota led the team to the playoffs two seasons ago – and won a game! That hadn’t happened since the McNair era. Since Mariota joined the team, and they fired Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans have been competitive and competent.

Here’s my argument in its very basic form: The Titans were a 9-7 team with a QB that could barely feel his throwing arm/hand. If that is true (and it is) then how good could this team be with a much healthier Mariota? No matter what his detractors say, last year was his worst year in regards to injuries. It was a weird, fluky, unlucky set of circumstances that had Marcus struggling with nerve damage all season. I am confident that sort of thing cannot happen again. I’m not saying Marcus won’t get hurt anymore. Obviously, his track record says he will. But as far as I am concerned, I would rather have a healthy Mariota for 13 or 14 games than just about anyone else. I am convinced that if the Titans sign Marcus long-term, his basement is what we saw last season. That’s the lowest he can go and even with that he led the team to a 9-7 season and one game from the playoffs. We haven’t seen his ceiling yet. I believe his ceiling is a very healthy season where he leads the team to 12 or 13 wins and a deep playoff run. He has the ability to do just that. He needs to stay mostly healthy to make that happen, and a fully healthy season might only happen once or twice in his career, but I am completely comfortable with that proposition. I will take multiple 9-7 type seasons with a banged up Mariota for the one or two special seasons where the team makes a Super Bowl run.

Yes, there is a strong element of faith on my part here. I am hoping and believing that Mariota can stay mostly/completely healthy at least a few seasons. I could be excessively optimistic about that. If so, I am wrong and the team is never much better than they have been the last two seasons. Fine. I would rather the Titans be what we have seen the last 3 seasons than what we saw the nearly 10 seasons prior to that. If that is our fate as fans, I’ll sign up for that right now, because I am not convinced that drafting a hotshot college QB will solve anything. It could turn out great or you could wind up with another Vince Young, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Geno Smith, Blake Bortles, or Blaine Gabbert. We’ve already seen what a Vince Young, Jake Locker, and a Blaine Gabbert led Titans team looks like. It’s not pretty.

I’m team Mariota. All the way. From here on out. Pay him after this season unless his body falls apart and he never plays football again. I’m fine with cheering for a good kid who can win games in the clutch, even if he is often injured. I can be proud of the team that takes the field every week with Marcus Mariota under center. I can be proud of the product on the field as well. I get it if you can’t get on board. I do. If you are done with Mariota because you are convinced he will never be healthy enough to take the team to the promised land, I am okay with that. Based on his injury history, it’s not an illogical stance to take. I just can’t go down that road with you. I’ve been on the road of desperately looking for “the guy” at QB. I’ve done that and it’s no fun at all. I’m fine with rolling the dice on Marcus even if it means we get 10 more years of what we have seen the last three seasons. My guess is, even if it’s mostly like that, we are bound to get one or two really special years mixed in there. That’s good enough for me.

Maybe I am being naïve. Maybe. If so, I don’t care. Marcus is my guy.

Agree or disagree? Comment below or you can hit me up on Twitter @philliplytle or @ramblingeveron.

(Editor’s Note: The article has been updated and edited for clarity. Thanks to The Midday 180 for the comment which sparked the edit.)




The Tennessee Titans: A Glass Half-Full Examination of the 2018 Season

I am a pessimist. I like to consider myself a realist, but when you strip away all the fancy words, you are left with someone who typically expects the worst. In my defense, the worst is usually what happens which is why my stubborn realist philosophy seems validated.

I have a few exceptions to my pessimistic personality, with a big one being my sports’ teams. When it comes to my teams, I am an eternal optimist. I always see the silver lining. I always hope and believe that the future will be bright, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. My hope for this article is that I can balance both sides – the optimist and the pessimist. I hope that balance will make for a more nuanced and rational take on what has been an incredibly frustrating season for my favorite team – the Tennessee Titans.


Weirdest season ever.

Before I jump into my conclusions about the 2018 season, let’s recap a few of the things that have factored into the big picture. We’ll bullet point these for ease of reading:
•   First time head coach
•   First time play-calling offensive coordinator
•   Starting Right tackle missed the beginning of the season due to injury
•   Starting Pro-Bowl Left tackle injured in the first game of the season
•   Starting Pro-Bowl Tight End injured in the first game of the season – and lost for the entire season
•   Starting QB injured in the first game of the season – missed an entire game and could not feel his throwing hand well until weeks later
•   The season opened with the longest game in the history of the NFL due to multiple lightning delays
•   Starting wide receiver quit on the team a few weeks into the season
•   Defensive coordinator had health scare in the first quarter of a divisional game requiring a hospitalization

I’m sure I am missing quite a few things to add to this list. I think my point stands. It’s been a weird season. The team has been up and down all year. They look like a top 5 team one week and a bottom 5 team the next. The offense looks inept in one game and then looks unstoppable the next – though the former plays out more often than the latter. Same thing for the defense, though their up and down has been different in that they looked solid for the first half of the season and then seemed to fall apart in the last few games. This season has been crazy. There have been dozens of factors contributing to that craziness and it has been a lot for a new coaching staff to deal with. I do not want the fans to brush off the insanity of that first week in Miami. The Titans lost their three best offensive players in one game: Delanie Walker for the season, Taylor Lewan for an indeterminate period of time on a cheap shot that wasn’t penalized, and Marcus Mariota (on a late hit) with one of the weirdest injuries I’ve ever seen. This team could have folded after that. They could have finished that ridiculous 7 hour and 8 minute fiasco and thrown in the towel. They didn’t. The coaches (many with little experience) didn’t let that happen. For the most part, they have handled things well, though there is still plenty of room to grow.


What were the most optimistic expectations for this team?

What was the best-case scenario – the dream outcome – for the Titans this season? The offense comes together under Matt LaFleur, propelling the team to a long playoff run? If that is your dream scenario, then you have to take the bad with the good. If this offense had become a top 10 NFL offense this season, the chances of LaFleur leaving at the end of the season would be high. Teams would be falling all over themselves to hire Sean McVay 2.0. That would mean another offensive coordinator for this offense and for Marcus Mariota in 2019. Frankly, if we want to see what Mariota is truly capable of, then it is in his, and our, best interest for him to have stability in the coaching staff. While this season has been frustrating for fans coming off a 9-7 season with a playoff win, it might be for the best in the long-term.

Of course, this all depends on Matt LaFleur actually being a good offensive coordinator. I think the jury is still out on that. I lean towards a “yes” to that question as we have seen improvement in some key areas, particularly in the second half of the season. I do believe most of what is holding back the offense at this point is the offensive line and there is only so much a coordinator can do to game plan around that. The measurables we do have show that Mariota is getting better under this system. He has the 4th highest completion percentage in the league, behind only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Kirk Cousins. In his last 4 complete games, he is averaging 252 yards per game and a 77.4% completion percentage. He has thrown 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in those games. (He’s also averaging 9.59 yards per attempt during that stretch which would be good for number 1 in the league.) Spread that out over a full season and you get 4,032 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. What Titans’ fan wouldn’t take those numbers?

Other players are coming along as well – namely guys like Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. There is no sugarcoating the running game though, and that is on LaFleur to fix. However, as I stated earlier, I think the majority of the blame falls on the O-line. If that can improve this season or during the offseason, the entire offense takes a massive leap forward.


What does this all mean?

I’ve chosen to approach this season as a chance for the team to grow and learn. Mike Vrabel has shown signs of being a good head coach. (You don’t luck into wins like the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans, and Patriots.) He has also shown some poor decision making tendencies. (Bad challenges, bad play calls at key times.) This season is a chance for him to learn from those mistakes. Same goes for LaFleur. I think this season is a chance to discover what he does well and eliminate the negatives. If he had exploded this season and this offense had taken off, he would be a head coach next year. Mariota and this offense cannot afford another change at that position. Just like players typically take a leap forward in their second season, I am trusting that this coaching staff will as well. We’ve seen glimmers of brilliance. Next season, we need to see that brilliance on a sustained basis. I believe they have it in them.

So, the craziest season I can remember in all my years following this team has been disappointing. But I believe it has been one step back so that this team can take many steps forward in the coming seasons. I realize that won’t make any Titans’ fan feel better now. I get that completely, but I am choosing to see the bright side of this – the hopeful side. That’s just what I do as a fan. It’s my way of coping. I hope that this can provide a little bit of hope for some other fans out there as well.

All that said, I still think the team can run the table, sneak into the playoffs, and do some damage this season, so what do I know.

 

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comment section below.




Five Reasons Every Titans’ Fan Should Love Marcus Mariota

If you had polled Titans’ fans prior to last season, I am convinced that an overwhelming majority of them would have been “all in” on Marcus Mariota. They would have believed he had proven that he was the franchise quarterback this team has been looking for since the Steve McNair era. Then the 2017-2018 season happened and the narrative about Mariota changed. Drastically. He went from being one of the most exciting young QB’s in the game to one of the most head-scratching. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season, his accuracy seemed to get worse, and he clearly did not have the same sort of electric speed and mobility of his first two professional seasons. Now, it is not uncommon to hear Titans’ fans talk about Mariota being a bust or that the team needs to draft his replacement. We live in crazy times.

I am firmly in the camp that believes that last season was an aberration. Due to a myriad (yes, I used myriad – deal with it) of factors, Mariota took a step back in his development last year. Here’s a quick recap of a few of those factors:

He had no offseason. Mariota ended his Sophomore season with a broken leg. He spent the entire offseason rehabbing. Everything from timing with receivers, comfort in the pocket, and confidence in his legs all took a significant blow due to that injury and the loss of an offseason.

He played in one of the most archaic offenses in the league. I’m not going to take cheap shots at Mularkey and Robiskie, but their offensive system was a bad fit for Mariota. They consistently put him in positions where he had to be perfect to make plays work, and last season, he just didn’t have what it took to be perfect that often.

He had really bad luck. According to at least one analyst, Mariota threw less “interceptable” passes than most QB’s in the NFL last season but still ended up with more interceptions than most of them. Basically, when he threw bad passes, they were picked off. It’s rare that it happens like that. Every QB throws bad passes that are not intercepted. Nearly every mistake Marcus made ended up costing the team. See below and the rest of the rankings here:

“Andy Dalton threw the ball to defenders 32 times last year, he had 12 interceptions. Derek Carr threw the ball to defenders 36 times last year, he had 13 interceptions. Mariota finished the year with 16 interceptions. He threw the ball to defenders 14 times. How is that possible? He was by far the least fortunate quarterback in the league. Of Mariota’s 14 interceptable passes, 13 were caught. 92.9 percent of the time he threw the ball to a defender the defender caught it, 27 of the 36 qualifying quarterbacks had less than half of their interceptable passes caught by defenders. Compounding Mariota’s misfortune, he also had three interceptions that were direct results of one of his teammates making an egregious error.


That’s enough of the bad stuff. Last year was a disappointment from a statistical perspective for Marcus Mariota. But not everything was bad. In fact, a lot of good stuff happened last year for Mariota and I think things are about to look even better.

 

Reason Number One: He is the perfect face of the franchise.

Marcus Mariota is sort of a boy scout. He is quiet, soft-spoken, and considerate. Read this article if you want to see the kind of guy he is behind the scenes. He is not going to embarrass the team or city with a DUI, an arrest for domestic violence, for crashing his motorcycle, for allegedly assaulting multiple women, or any number of other stupid, corrupt, and evil things. The worst thing Marcus will do is say he was “p***** off” after a game where he played poorly and then come back the next day and apologize for being angry and for saying those words – because his mother raised him to be better than that.

Reason Number Two: He is clutch.

Mariota led the NFL with 4th quarter and overtime comebacks last year during the regular season. He added another comeback for the first Tennessee Titans’ playoff win in over a decade. The Titans have a chance in most games if number 8 is under center. He is that kind of player.

 

Reason Number Three: Even with a down season, he is still putting up good career numbers.

Even factoring in a miserable statistical season last year, Mariota’s career numbers are just fine and show that he is talented and has a long career ahead of him. His numbers in key areas measure up just fine when compared to other “young” and talented QB’s in the NFL.

  • Mariota has a better career completion % than Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, and Jameis Winston.
  • Mariota has the same or better TD % than Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Matthew Stafford.
  • Mariota has a better career QB rating than Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Matthew Stafford.

Mariota can improve, sure, but the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

 

Reason Number Four: He makes no excuses.

This is the area where Marcus reminds me the most of Steve McNair. McNair never took the credit for the win and always took the blame for the loss. Mariota is exactly the same way. That is what you want from your leader. You want accountability no matter what. Mariota demands perfection from himself and his teammates see that and they respond to it. The fans should respond to it. At least, those of us that have not lost our minds…

 

Reason Number Five: This. (Click the link in the video to watch it on YouTube. The NFL is weird about this stuff.)
And this.
And THIS!!! (It’s ridiculous how giddy I get watching this one.)

 

I think those plays speak for themselves. I deliberately chose plays from last season when Marcus was statistically at his worst. Even at his lowest, he did those things. He made those plays. He willed his team to win those games.

What else do you want, Titans’ fans? Get on board now because the Mariota hype train is about to leave the station.




Jurrell Casey Has the Right to Protest and Tennessee Titans’ Fans Have the Right to Make Fools of Themselves

During an interview in London, at an NFL sponsored event, Tennessee Titans’ defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey, made some controversial statements regarding the new NFL anthem protest policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not? I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” He further commented that he will continue to protest just as he has for the last few seasons – by standing for the anthem and then raising his fist as the anthem ends. He chose this protest because he did not want to disrespect the flag, anthem, or military.

Evidently, that is not enough for a certain segment of the Tennessee Titans’ fan-base. Social media blew up last night in Titans’ land. Some fans want him cut from the team. Some fans are announcing that if he goes through with this they will no longer support the team.

Conservative talk radio in Nashville has been just as over-the-top in its response. Popular radio Host Phil Valentine tweeted out that if Casey, or “bozo” as he decided to label him, carries out this protest, then he is done with the team. On Nashville Morning News with Brian Wilson, caller after caller lambasted Casey for his disrespect to the flag, anthem, and everything we hold dear.

The problem with all of this should be obvious to anyone paying any attention at all. Granted, paying attention is difficult for some. Nearly every person that I heard call in the radio show this morning was angry that Casey was going to kneel for the anthem. He is not. He stands for the anthem. He stands because he “wanted to be respectful.” He stands and when the anthem ends, he raises one fist in the air. He will continue doing just that. Clearly, that part of his statement and his track record has escaped many Titans’ fans (and radio personalities).

Even worse, many of the callers took cheap shots at the way Casey spoke, with not-so-subtle shades of bigotry and even racism. Look, I am loathe to accuse anyone of being a racist. I think that accusation is hurled about way too often in our society. Sadly, what I heard today reinforced in my mind that it plays a role in this debate. Casey did not choose his words perfectly. It was clearly off-the-cuff and not a prepared statement, and when one speaks that way, there is a tendency to say things less clearly than intended. I won’t say he misspoke, but his message was not delivered as concisely and effectively as it could have been. I am willing to give him a pass on this due to everything he has done in his career and the man he has shown himself to be. Casey’s actions in the past, his off-the field actions, and his overall track-record of integrity should inform everyone of what his intentions truly are.

There were also the cries from fans about how Casey is making nearly $15 million a season to play a game and he should be grateful for that and just shut up, stand up, and play football. It’s amazing to me that those who are ostensibly the most pro-capitalism people in the world would begrudge athletes for making millions in what is one of the most capitalist ventures in the world. Mocking NFL players because they make a lot of money is about the most self-defeating argument available to the conservative capitalist. Playing a sport for a living does not mean you lose your rights to speak your mind.

I have gone on record on my feelings about the anthem protests. You can read those here. To sum up my views: while I agree that players have the right to protest, choosing to do so during the anthem is not productive. It paints them as villains and unpatriotic to too many people. Coupled with the fact that Colin Kaepernick, the player who started all this anthem protest discussion, made incredibly negative comments about the flag after his early protests and from that point on, many fans were going to view any anthem protests in the same light. This remains an incredibly complex and difficult topic. Unfortunately, the loudest voices seem to be doing their best to reduce it to the level where you are forced to pick one of two sides – and both sides are flawed and their arguments are problematic. Frankly, that is irrelevant to this Casey/Tennessee Titans situation. Casey is not disrespecting the flag or anthem. He stands and shows respect during the anthem. His protest is the best possible version of any of these protests because he is still able to express his opinion but he is doing it in a way that cannot be perceived as a slight to the country, the military, the flag, or the anthem. Well, it can be perceived that way, but only by people that are either ignorant or willfully deceptive. Neither of those options are good.

Titans’ fans, be smart. Look at Casey’s career. He has been a model citizen, on and off the field. He has been involved in the community. He has done nothing to deserve mockery or attacks. These types of responses make the fan-base look stupid. They drive a further wedge between players that feel that there are injustices in the country that need to be addressed and the fans that cheer on the team who feel the matter is overblown. As fans, we need to be better than this.




The Inevitable Letdown of Being a Fan (The NFL on REO)

Perhaps the defining attribute of being a sports’ fan is the ever-present feeling of being let down. As fans, it is our burden to bear. We cheer on our teams, year after year, and most of the time, walk away disappointed. Of course, there are the occasional high points: The big win against a rival. The post-season run. Even, a championship if we are really fortunate. The truth is though, we are rarely fortunate in our fandom.

Two times in the past five years, Aaron Rodgers has been injured and unable to complete the season. This year, his Green Bay Packers were 4-1 when he got hurt early in the game against the Minnesota Vikings. You could argue that with a healthy Rodgers, the Packers had as much of a chance to make it to the Super Bowl as any other team in the NFC. Now, the team is done – looking at another season down the drain due to an injury to their star quarterback. Before you feel too sorry for the Packers’ fans, it is good to remember that they have had great success for the past few decades and have won multiple championships in that time. Even so, that fan base feels the letdown. They feel as if they are cursed. It is the natural state for the majority of fans across the globe.

Or, you could take a look at the Cowboys. They spent a decade with a legitimately great quarterback and were never able to advance at all come playoff time. Then, a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back led them to a 13-3 record and the future looked bright. Turn the page to 2017 and their star running back gets suspended for off the field problems and the team is fighting for a playoff spot. Where would they be in that playoff picture if Ezekiel Elliott had not missed any games this season? Even if the Cowboys win out, they still need all sorts of things to happen to make the playoffs. Their chances are slim. I’m sure Cowboys fans feel let down after an amazing ride last season that only looked like the beginning of a great run.

And what about the fan base of the Philadelphia Eagles who are without a doubt, some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the league. This season was like something out of a dream. The second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, had the offensive humming along. The defense was improved. The team was clearly the team to beat in the NFC. Then Wentz got hurt a few weeks ago and now the team will have to try to carry on with Nick Foles at QB. Foles is good, probably the best backup QB in the league, but he is not Wentz. The loss of Wentz has jeopardized a potential Super Bowl run. Eagles’ fans know this feeling all too well. They have been so close so many times, I’m sure there were many of them that just knew something bad was hiding in the shadows. That is the curse of being a fan.

Being a fan of the NFL in general, and the Titans, in particular, has provided its fair share of disappointments. My boys are big fans of the Titans. Sadly, they have no detailed memories of the Titans making the playoffs. The two oldest are both teenagers if that gives you any indication how long it has been. A few weeks ago, the Titans were 8-4 and looked like a lock for the postseason. Now, after two bad losses to below average teams, they are on the outside looking in. Yes, they are technically still in the playoffs if they were to start today, but they need help to make it to the NFL’s second season. I’ve mentioned before that my oldest son will not celebrate a good play by the Titans until a few minutes have passed because he is sure there will be a flag thrown that will wipe the whole thing off the board. That is how this entire season has felt to me. I’ve been waiting to fully celebrate. I’ve enjoyed the wins for sure, but there has always been the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something bad was waiting around the corner. We are feeling the letdown. Hopefully, the Titans can give their fans a better Christmas than last year and make a surprise push to the playoffs. Miracles do happen.

So, what letdown have you experienced as a sports’ fan? Let us commiserate with one another. Share your stories and your pain. We want to read it all and experience the crushing weight of disappointment with you.




Two Tales of One City (The NFL on REO)

Power Rankings

I got some help this week for the NFL Power Rankings from fellow REO contributors Gowdy Cannon and Mike Lytle. I asked them to rank their top 15 teams. I then assigned a point value to each team based on where they were ranked and then added those points together to get the final product – The NFL on REO Top Ten. (Example for the ranking: A 1st place vote receives 15 points, a 2nd place vote receives 14 points, and a 15th place vote receives 1 point.) I’ve listed the total point value for each team so you can see how this all came together. For the tie-breakers, I listed the rationale for why one team was placed above the other.

1. New England – 45
Back when the Patriots were 2-2 with what was by far the last place team in defensive points given up, it looked like the rest of the league may have had a prayer of not having to deal with this constant playoff juggernaut this year. It was a testimony to how incredible the offense is that they were 2-2 since most teams would have been 0-4 giving up 38 points every week.

But as anyone could see coming, the Patriots turned it around on D. They have been the best team in the league on defense as far as giving up points for the last eight weeks and have a chance to do something very few teams have done the last 30 years – go nine straight games giving up 17 or less. They are now solidly a Top Ten defense in the league by this simple yet extremely important criteria. The O still deserves credit though – the Patriots give up a bunch of yards but recently had 94 straight drives by their opponents start in the opponent’s territory. A record for the last 25 years. That is a credit to NE not turning it over and moving the ball when they have it.

This team is still the champ and the favorite until something major changes. – Gowdy Cannon

2. Pittsburgh – 40 (The Steelers had two number 2 votes while the Eagles only had one.)

3. Philadelphia – 40

4. Minnesota – 36
Just by stats and the eye test this team seems elite and poised to make a run in January. They have a Top 2 defense by the most basic measures and a solid running game and, to this point, excellent quarterback play by Case Keenum and at least for a game or so, Sam Bradford. I know the NFL stereotype is that you have to have an elite QB to win it all and this would cause concern for the Vikings, no matter how well Keenum or Bradford are playing. But seeing as how half the of the last twelve Super Bowls were won by Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, two of Ben Roethlisberger’s most mediocre seasons and a wooden dummy that looked like Peyton Manning, I think the standard belief is often wrong. And while Keenum isn’t anywhere close to Russell Wilson, he could at least be as effective as Wilson was in 2013.

The bigger problem to me is Minnesota’s history. I don’t think it’s by chance that Atlanta and Carolina didn’t get it done the last two years. The NFL is very much the haves and the have-nots historically and it takes either a special QB like John Elway or Drew Brees or a historically great defense like Seattle to cut through years and years of losing and choking. – Gowdy Cannon

5. New Orleans – 33
Giving Drew Brees that running game has been the just what this team needed. Ingram and Kamara have both been impressive this season and they will give the Saints something they have not had in some time – a strong running attack for bad weather games in the playoffs. – Phill Lytle

6. Seattle – 31
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the top NFL teams for the last several years with two Super Bowl appearances and one win plus several other trips to the playoffs. Most of their recent success has been due to their league best defense and a strong running game. This season that script has been flipped. Their defense is still in the top 10, although much closer to 10 than 1. Their rushing offense ranks 21st in the league and many of those yards are from quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is currently accounting for over 80% of his team’s offense. If he keeps up this pace he will set an all time record. Seattle may not be complete enough to challenge for a title this year, but with Wilson under center we would never count them out. – Mike Lytle

7. LA Rams – 27
I’m not sold. Sorry, I’m just not. I realize their offense has been historically good, but history shows us that great offenses don’t always go far in the playoffs when faced with good defenses and bad playing conditions. Plus, while Goff has been good this season, and much better than his rookie season, this is a guy that has never really played in a big game in his life. His University of California teams were never that great and some of them were terrible. I’m just not convinced he will play up to his regular season standard when faced with a tough opponent in the playoffs. – Phill Lytle

8. Carolina – 21 (There was no difference in voting between these two teams – each had the same votes: 10,9, and 8. I listed them alphabetically.)

9. Jacksonville – 21

10. Tennessee – 20


It’s a good, yet frustrating, time to be a sport’s fan in Nashville

Today, December 6th, 2017, Nashville has a first-place team in two different sports. In the NHL, the Nashville Predators are leading the Western Conference, as well as the Central Division. In the NFL, the Tennessee Titans are in first place in the AFC South. Both fan-bases have a lot to be excited about with the results they are seeing. Both teams are winning at a high percentage. Both teams look poised to make it to the playoffs, though the Predators have a long way to go before that becomes a reality due to the length of the NHL season. But beyond that, the reactions to these two first-place teams could not be any more different. The Nashville Predators are the darlings of the city while the Tennessee Titans seem like the often maligned, step-child. How did we get here?

The 2017-2018 Nashville Predators are one of the best teams in the NHL. They are the defending Western Conference Champions and appear to have improved since their impressive playoff run last season. They play an exciting, action-packed style that leaves the fans happy and satisfied. They win and they win with style. Simply put, they are a joy to watch.

The 2017-2018 Titans have the third-best record in the AFC and are in place as the 3rd seed for the playoffs. They barely missed the playoffs last year, going 9-7 in coach Mike Mularkey’s first full season. They continue to win games even though the product on the field leaves a lot to be desired. They are inconsistent and seem to play down to their competition. Simply put, they are a constant frustration to watch.

I find myself in a weird spot when discussing the Titans with other fans. I acknowledge that the team has been erratic. I realize that this team should not consistently be in close games against many of their opponents. They should be able to handily beat a good number of the teams they have faced this season, but instead, they have struggled to put it all together until very late in many of these games. Their young, star QB, Marcus Mariota has been just as erratic and frustrating with his performance this season. Taken as a whole, the Titans have not made it easy for their fans to feel optimistic about this season.

Except for one thing: They just keep winning.

You can deduct style points all you want, but the truth of the matter is, the Tennessee Titans are 8-4. They are 4-1 in their division. They are one of only a handful of teams this season with a winning record against teams with records over .500. (They beat: 8-4 Seattle, 8-4 Jacksonville, and 7-5 Baltimore. They lost to 10-2 Pittsburgh.) The Titans find ways to win, week after week and at some point, the fans just need to accept them for what they are: A frustrating, erratic, hard-working, and successful team.

For all the fans of both teams out there, enjoy both kinds of winning. Enjoy watching the Nashville Predators dominate the ice. Titans’ fans haven’t seen that kind of dominance in a very long time. It reminds me a lot of the 2000 team that steamrolled through the regular season. Frankly, I have no idea what this year’s Titans’ team reminds me of. (Insert your own joke here.) What I do know is that they are winning and that they have a few more winnable games left this season and a great shot at hosting a playoff game. How awesome is that? So, get on board people. Enjoy the ride, even if it is unpredictable and occasionally bumpy. It’s better than it has been in a very long time




All Roads Lead to Nashville (The NFL on REO)

I’m too hyped about tomorrow’s game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers to get any real work done this week. It is easily one of the best matchups of the season with two division leaders squaring off in prime-time. If you have read this column before you know that I am a die-hard Titans fan. Have been since 1999. More on that in a bit. For today’s edition of The NFL on REO, my brain naturally turned to all things Titans – even in ways that probably won’t make much sense to anyone else. But, as I have said before, it’s my article and I will do whatever I want.


The worst game of the week, even though it went to overtime and on the surface seemed exciting, was between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I am still struggling to understand how the Jaguars won that game. Down by three points, they turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter…and they still won. The Chargers had one simple job to do: run out the clock, and they could not do it. (Blake Bortles continues to prove that he is terrible and will be the downfall of an otherwise talented team.) How does this relate to the Titans you ask? Easy, the Jags are fighting for the AFC South crown and are Tennessee’s only real competition at this point. A loss against the Chargers would have been huge for the Titans. Also, Ken Wisenhunt is the offensive coordinator for the Chargers and I blame him completely for being unable to run out the clock at the end of the game. If you have already removed all memories of Wisenhunt from your mind I don’t blame you. Even so, he was the head coach for the Titans for one and a half horrible, awful, terrible season. Somehow, his ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory for the Titans has stayed with him even though he is now coaching on the West coast. Thanks a lot, Ken!


Peter King is Sports Illustrated’s lead NFL writer. He writes a column every week called Monday Morning Quarterback. These are massive, thousands of words articles. Unless I missed it, his most recent column had ZERO mentions of the Titans beating the Bengals. (He did mention Bengals player Vontaze Burfict getting ejected, though that had everything to do with Bufict being a moron and nothing to do with the Titans.) I realize the Titans are not a glamorous team. I realize they are not a great team at this point. But, they have won four games in a row and are leading their division over half-way through the season. Not to mention, Marcus Mariota has led the team on last-minute, game-winning drives in three of the last four games. But yeah, don’t write one word about them in your NFL column. That seems logical.


This is the story of how the Tennessee Titans won my heart

I am confident that my story is not that unique. The 1999-2000 season was a magical one for those of us living in Nashville. The Houston/Tennessee Oilers finally had a home and a name. The Tennessee Titans captured the imagination of an entire city that first season. They moved into their new home, Adelphia Coliseum, and proceeded to shock the NFL and the world with their improbable run to the Super Bowl.

I do have a confession to make though: I was not a fully formed fanatic until the end of that season. I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan. (I know…) I lost that team to an awful, greedy move by an awful, greedy owner. When Cleveland was awarded a new franchise and created the Browns once again, it was too late for me. I no longer cared. I had moved on. So, the 1999-2000 season found me as more of a football fan and less of a fan of any particular team.

The first call to my heart occurred on January 8, 2000 – the fittingly named “Music City Miracle” game. At that time, I was working as a security guard to help pay for college. I had the sleep-depriving graveyard shift – 11 PM to 7 AM. I worked that Saturday, got home, and opted to try to sleep for a few hours before the game started. I overslept. I remember waking up, turning on the television and watching the Buffalo Bills’ kicker, Steve Christie drive a 41-yard field goal through the uprights to give his team a 16-15 lead. There were only seconds left in the game, enough time for either a crazy kickoff return attempt or some sort of Hail Mary after the kickoff. Neither of those options seemed especially hopeful. I’ll admit, I was depressed and frustrated. I hated to see the 13-3 season end like this. I hated that I had missed the entire game, only to watch them lose. I hated that they were losing to an inferior Buffalo team.

Then it happened. The short kick. Lorenzo Neal catching it and handing it to Frank Wycheck. Wycheck throwing a perfect lateral to Kevin Dyson. Dyson running down the sideline with an escort of blockers. I sat there in my bed with my arms above my head in celebration. To this day, I am so thankful that I woke up in time to see it.

But even that didn’t completely win me over. I know, how could that play not win me over? I can’t explain it, but I guess my only excuse is that I was being overly selective and careful with my next choice. I wanted to be sure that the team I picked to be MY team was worthy of my fandom.

The Titans became worthy, and then some, at Super Bowl XXXIV. The first half was an ugly one for the Titans and did little to bring me around to their cause. But once the second half started, and Steve McNair and Eddie George willed their team to tie the game, I found myself buying in. The final drive by the Titans, with impossible play after impossible play by McNair broke down all my other defenses. I was hooked. I was sold. I was a Tennessee Titans’ fan. I realize they lost that game, but that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to root for a team that had to work hard for success. I wanted to root for a team that played tough, physical football. I wanted to root for a team that left it all out on the field.

The Titans were that team.


So that’s it for today. What stood out to you in Week 10? What is the story for how you came to love your favorite team? Comment below. We love to hear from our readers.




Who Watches the Watchmen? (The NFL on REO)

In Watchmen, the genre-defining masterpiece by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, there is a slogan that can be seen throughout the graphic novel, spray-painted on walls, “Who watches the Watchmen?” It’s a message about keeping those in power accountable and if that is even possible. While the things I examine this week are much less important in the grand scheme, I believe they belong in the conversation. It’s too often that we find incompetence or worse coming from those that are in a place of power in the sports’ world – whether it be the leagues, the teams, or the media that covers it all. So here is my attempt to watch the watchmen.


Media Incompetence

Reading and listening to sports media is a frustrating and sometimes exasperating use of my time. I don’t think I am alone in that reaction. I get it. There will be honest, and even logical, differences of opinion. I have no problem with those. I may not like it when my favorite teams get unfairly criticized or ignored, but on some level, I understand the reasoning behind those decisions. But sometimes, or a lot of the time, sports’ writers and talkers go too far. They make absurd declarations that no intelligent person can defend. (See: EVERY WORD FROM THE LIPS OF SKIP BAYLESS.) Or sometimes, they seem to lack the simple skill of real analysis or evaluation. I’ll give you an example.

Sports Illustrated does a weekly NFL Power Rankings Poll. There are typically 17 to 18 voters and most of them have voted throughout the season. Each submits their own Power Rankings and then the totals are compiled and the Official Power Poll is created.

In this week’s Power Rankings (and last week’s for that matter) my Tennessee Titans received a 30th place vote from one of the voters.

30th.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. And this person that purports to know the NFL voted the Titans as the 3rd worst team in the NFL. Look, I have no problem with the voters keeping the Titans out of the top half of the Power Rankings. They have not been a good team this year. They have been uneven and inconsistent. But even with all that, they are still 4-3, first in their division, and have wins over the Seahawks and the Jaguars – two teams that are numbers 5 and 13 respectively. The Titans’ worst loss – the debacle in Houston – was to the number 11 ranked team according to the Power Ranking. They don’t “show their work” on the Power Rankings so I don’t know who to call out publicly but if I could I would. It’s dumb and completely unsupportable.


It depends on what your definition of the word “catch” is…

Another week in the NFL, another controversial catch/no catch situation. This week’s biggest offender – the Zach Miller no-catch call in the Chicago vs. New Orleans game. At this point, no one officiating an NFL game knows for sure what a catch is. For an exhaustive breakdown of some of the most controversial calls in the past few years, go visit this link. It has videos and gifs and everything.

I reached out to some of my fellow REO writers Mike, Gowdy, and Mark to get their opinions on this topic. Have it fellas!

Gowdy:
For the last seven years, the NFL has massacred logic and the English language over what the meaning of a “catch” is in football. It started with Calvin Johnson vs. my Bears in 2010, reached its controversial peak in a Dallas vs. Green Bay playoff game with Dez Bryant in January of 2015 and has continued until last Sunday when Zach Miller made (what is logically and semantically) a catch vs. New Orleans in the end zone for a TD.  But no, the referees ruled that it’s not a catch with the NFL’s Pharisee-like definition of a very simple concept.

Look, I get it to some degree. When a player bobbles the ball as he’s falling to the ground, it can mean he didn’t catch it in that he didn’t procure it to a reasonable level, meaning he “dropped” it. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and leave it all to subjectivity. But give the referees some latitude to use some common sense. Any time you over-define words and concepts, you run a huge risk of leaving out a human’s ability to reason and interpret. That is exactly what has been happening in the NFL for years now.Their catch rule reads like a chapter in Leviticus. It needs to change. Because otherwise, it hurts people’s brains, creates injustice (in a sports sense) and takes some fun out of the game.

Mike:
I am usually not a “things were so much better in the good old days” type person, but when it comes to catching a football in the NFL this was so much better in the good old days. I remember a time when players, coaches, refs, and fans all had the same basic understanding of what constituted a catch. Now we have to go through a checklist of questions like “Did he clearly possess the ball?” “Did he make a football move?” “Did he maintain possession all the way to the ground?” “At any point in the process of catching the football did the ball make any unnatural motion that could potentially leave an ounce of doubt in the minds of all those looking on as to the veracity of the aforementioned completion?”

I may have made one of those questions up, but you get my point. It should not be this difficult. I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan, but if what Dez Bryant did against the Packers in the 2015 playoffs can’t be ruled a catch then we need to rethink the whole thing. It hasn’t really improved since then despite the tinkering. The solution, as always, fire Roger Goddell.

Mark:
What exactly is a catch according to the NFL?  Ah, one the great mysteries of the cosmos.  Philosophers, scientists, and theologians have debated this topic for a millennium.  Verily, this is an inescapable question that every man and woman struggles with at some point in their existence.  Unfortunately, those who wrestle with this question are often NFL referees.  In recent years the definition of catch according to the rule book has become so convoluted that refs might need a legal degree to fully comprehend the nature of a catch.  As a result we’ve seen legal “loopholes” exploited (occasionally at the most inopportune of times in the post season!) to deny a team/player of what should have been a catch.

 

I think they all make very valid points, especially the part about firing Goodell. Mike is wise. Listen to Mike. Gowdy is no slouch either using words like massacre and semantically. This is an NFL column for crying out loud! That kinda talk is too fancy for us common folk! And Mark, well Mark decided to take a more philosophical approach. Nothing wrong with that.


Titans Talk

Is there such a thing as a bad win? Or a good loss? According to Logan Ryan, Titans’ cornerback, there are not good losses or bad wins. Ryan has a radio show on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville where he sits in with the guys from The Midday 180. Yesterday, Paul Kuharsky vehemently pushed back against Ryan’s assertion. In Kuharsky’s view, the Tennessee Titans’ overtime win against the Cleveland Browns was a bad win. Ryan made a lot of good points in his response about how hard it is to win in the NFL, how some games just don’t go the way you want them to and you have to do everything you can to pull out the win. That’s what the Titans did against the Browns. It was an ugly win. It was a disappointing game for Titans’ fans because we had hoped to see the Titans dominate from the opening whistle. But, a win is a win. I tend to side more with Logan Ryan, an actual NFL player who has won a Super Bowl, than with a sports personality/writer.

Let me frame it this way (echoing what Ryan said on the show): Would the Houston Texans’ 41-38 loss to the Seattle Seahawks be considered a good loss for the Texans? Or would it be considered a bad win for the Seahawks? My guess is, most people (and Paul Kuharsky) would say that yes, it was a good loss because the Texans offense was so good in that game and it was very close. I also think that most people (including Paul) would say that it was a good win for the Seahawks. It was an exciting game, that’s for sure, but does that make it a good loss and a good win? Both teams struggled to do anything on defense. Both teams allowed their opponents to move the ball almost effortlessly down the field. (Both QB’s threw 4 TDs and over 400 yards. That’s a sign of very poor defense.) So why would that be a good win for the Seahawks? One side of the ball played horribly – just like the Titans offense did against the Browns. One side played really well – just like the Titans defense did against the Browns.[1. Before you lose your mind yelling at me about the quality of the opponent, know that I understand that perspective. The Browns are an awful team. The Titans should have won that game by 10+ points. I was frustrated that they didn’t. But at the end of the day, they won. To me, that is all that matters. I guarantee you that while Ryan and his teammates are happy with the win, they are well aware that they have to play much better in the future. Both of those things can be true. It’s not an either-or scenario like some in the media or in the fan-base want it to be.] A win is a win in the NFL. You take them any way you can get them. Assigning style points is for fans and writers and has no bearing what happens on the field and in the locker room.

 

 




The Blame Game (The NFL on REO)

Titans Talk

Sunday’s game in Miami was brutal to watch. The Titans were never able to find any offensive rhythm under backup QB, Matt Cassel. It is no surprise, that after a 16-10 loss to a painfully bad Miami Dolphins’ team, many people in the Titans’ organization are getting blamed. And there is plenty of well-deserved blame to go around. Unfortunately, most of the local writers, radio talkers, and fans are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction. That is where I come in. Consider this the official Blame Index for the debacle in South Florida.

Officials: 50% of the blame.

I am not a “blame the refs” kind of guy. I will complain about the refs. I will criticize the refs. I will yell at the refs. But in almost every game, the refs do not ultimately decide the outcome. There are always plays that can be made to overcome bad officiating. But what we witnessed in Miami was so awful and so game-changing, that it has to be number one on this list. There were multiple examples of incompetence throughout the game, but the sequence late in the 1st quarter proved to be the most damaging so we will focus on that.

With less than a minute left in the 1st quarter, down 0-3, Matt Cassel did something no one watching that game thought he could do: He completed a pass more than 10 yards down the field. In fact, he threw a decent ball down the field to Delanie Walker for a 59-yard touchdown. Titans’ fans celebrated. Then we saw the flag. As all fans of the Tennessee Titans know, you don’t cheer for the team until you are completely sure there is no flag on the field. (On a personal note, my oldest son will wait a minute or two before he celebrates because he is convinced that the refs will never allow anything good to happen to the Titans. Thanks for killing my son’s spirit NFL.) We waited for the call from the officials…and were rewarded with one of the most spectacularly wrong-headed penalties in the history of the game. Pass interference on Jonnu Smith, rookie Tight End of the Titans. “That doesn’t seem like that bad of a call,” you say. “If he interfered with the defender, perhaps that is how Walker got open.” If only it were that simple. No, Smith and his defender (the defender who initiated contact by the way) were TWENTY yards away from the catch.  (Watch the play here.) There was less contact, less hand-checking than in virtually every pass play in every game in the NFL this season. That’s only a slight exaggeration. It was minor contact, by both players, that literally had nothing to do with anything that happened on that touchdown pass and catch. But the officials think that everyone watches NFL games to see them throw flags and awkwardly talk to the crowd so…

It was a bad call. But it was a back-breaking call for the Titans in this game because that one play could have been the very play that allowed them to get the offense on track. I’ll explain.

Up until that point in the game, and throughout the rest of the game, the Titans struggled to do much on offense. With Cassel as your QB, your options are limited at best. The Miami defense did not respect the Titans’ passing game and with good reason. So, they were stacking the box, daring the Titans to throw. If that TD to Walker stands, the entire defensive strategy changes for the Dolphins. Suddenly, they now know the Titans can throw the ball over the top. Putting eight or nine guys in the box is no longer an option on every play. That opens up the running game, which is exactly what the Titans wanted. If the TD stands, the Titans take a 7-3 lead and start to control the game on the ground. This serves two goals: Wear down Miami and keep your defense fresh. But the refs decided that an obvious no-call should take away the biggest play of the day for either team.

Two plays later, Cassel drops back and gets hit while he is throwing the ball. The ball travels a good 10-15 feet forwards in the air. Of the 22 players on the field, all but one stop playing. The pass is clearly incomplete. A lone Dolphin runs and picks up the ball and runs it to the end zone. Most of the refs have stopped officiating. One ref half-heartedly follows the Dolphin player but stops before he gets to the end zone. Dolphins’ players from the sideline make their way onto the field while the ball is still being carried to the end zone. The refs huddle for two minutes and when it is all said and done, they announce that they ruled the ball a fumble and then a touchdown for Miami. (You can watch the play here.)

There were probably 20 things wrong in how the officials handled that call. I don’t really want to waste anyone’s time going through all of them. I’ll keep it simple by saying the refs were just as confused as the players and the fans and they really had no idea what happened in the play and they used the replay system to bail them out. It’s the most cowardly and incompetent form of officiating out there and more and more NFL referees are doing it. They are relying more on the cameras than their own abilities and it is hurting the game.

Regardless of the details, this two-play sequence took 7 points off the board for the Titans and put 7 points on the board for the Dolphins. Without Marcus Mariota, the Titans just don’t have enough offense to overcome that kind of scoring swing.

 

Coaches: 25% of the blame.

They ran the ball 18 times on Sunday. They threw the ball 32 times with a back-up QB. That’s all you need to know about how the coaches did on Sunday. Unacceptable.

 

Matt Cassel: 10% of the blame.

I have heard way too many people put all the blame on Cassel. That’s insane. He played poorly. But he did enough (before the refs pratfalled their way into the game) to win. IF the Walker TD stands, he ends up with 200 yards passing, 69% completion percentage, and 2 touchdowns. Not a bad day for a second string QB. But, he does deserve a little blame because he showed no pocket awareness, taking way too many sacks, and just didn’t have the ability to make the big pass when his team needed him to in the 2nd half.

 

Offensive Line: 10% of the blame.

I realize they lost Taylor Lewan for the majority of the game and they were trying to protect a statue for QB, but this unit has to play better. If they don’t get it figured out, this season will be a major disappointment and will set the Titans back a year in the development.

 

Roger Goodell: 10% of the blame.

Because in any conversation, Goodell deserves criticism.


Cracks in the Hull: Leadership

A few weeks ago I wrote about some things the NFL needs to do to improve its image. I highlighted a few areas, one of which was leadership. You can read that article here. I’ve covered a few of the issues in the intervening weeks and would like to spend a little time on the leadership problem today.

Roger Goodell has finally issued a statement sort of saying that the players should stand for the National Anthem. Too little and too late. If Goodell was even average at his job, this is an issue he would have handled a long time ago. Instead, he tried to play politician for too long and it has cost the league dearly.

He needs to go. Now. I’ve been saying it for years. The decisions he has made as Commissioner will eventually ruin the league. We are starting to see the first signs of that. If the NFL wants to survive and thrive 20 years from now, they have to get rid of Goodell as soon as possible.




Quarter Season Power Rankings (The NFL on REO)

Phill’s Quarter-Season Power Rankings!

We should probably call this edition: “Not Available.” That will make more sense in a bit. This season has been unpredictable, which is one of the reasons the NFL is so much fun. Contrary to some opinions, there have been some really good games this year and we are once again shaping up to have a good number of new playoff teams in the mix. As you will see below, the Top Ten has been invaded by many new faces this time around. And that’s a good thing. I don’t know if these teams will be able to keep it up for the next 12 games, but so far, they have earned their spots on my list. Feel free to tell me I’m an idiot in the comment section below. I can take it. (You can view the first Power Rankings right here.)


10. Rams (Last Time: N/A)

I don’t believe in them yet but you can’t knock them too low with a 3-1 record. New coach Sean McVay has done wonders with the offense.

9. Patriots (Last Time: 1)

The Pats have too much talent across the board to be playing at their current level. They will get this figured out. Unfortunately…

8. Broncos (Last Time: N/A)

They did get their third win against an Oakland team that lost their starting QB, so things could look very different right now at 2-2. Still, they have played solid football through 4 weeks.

7. Eagles (Last Time: N/A)

Once again, it’s still too early to know a whole lot about any team, but the Eagles look competitive. I fully expected them to make a move to the Top Ten during this season and they are not letting me down.

6. Bills (Last Time: N/A)

The Bills have very little offense. The Bills have an insanely smothering defense. They have only given up 54 points this season. That is not sustainable but it earns them a spot in the Top Ten this week.

5. Panthers (Last Time: N/A)

They have the pedigree to be a very good team. I don’t love them because their offense has been mostly MIA and losing Olsen won’t help at all. Still, I think they have enough pieces on both sides of the ball to make this a good season.

4. Packers (Last Time: 5)

About what I expected from them. Good offense. Average defense.

3. Steelers (Last Time: 3)

They looked bad one game this season – against a bad Bears’ team. Their offense will win them a lot of game this year but their defense has been more impressive so far.

2. Falcons (Last Time: 2)

I can’t put them lower yet even though they have not looked great. They are 3-1. They are doing what they need to do to make a playoff push. But Matt Ryan has been inconsistent and if he doesn’t improve, they will be one-and-done come postseason time. (Ryan is on my son’s fantasy team and he is ruining everything.)

1. Chiefs (Last Time: 10)

I didn’t see this one coming. I never expected Kareem Hunt to be such a game-changer. His addition to this offense has completely opened things up for everyone else. And the defense, which was good last year, hasn’t lost a step. Can they keep this up, particularly when Hunt hits the rookie wall? We’ll have to wait and see.


Titans Talk

Nope.

No.

Aaaahhh!!!11

That was the worst defensive performance I have seen from the Titans since the 59-0 loss to the Patriots back in 2009. They were out of position the entire game. It was as if Houston could read their minds before every snap. I will say this, if Mariota plays in the second half, the score is not that lopsided. Houston still wins, and wins by quite a bit, but the Titans probably score another 14-21 points in the game. It would have made it look a little respectable in the end but it still would have been a massive misstep in an otherwise promising season. Coach LeBeau has to get this figured out ASAP or this team is in real trouble.

And that’s all I have to say about that game.