Tennessee Titans State of the Union: Where They Stand Halfway Through 2012

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

Had I envisioned this scenario with the Titans, I would have downgraded my expectations.
Had I envisioned this scenario with the Titans, I would have downgraded my expectations.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans aren't where they want to be.

At 3-5 halfway through 2012, their odds of making the postseason are slim.

Here's a recap of the first half of the year.


Predictions, Schmedictions

Back in April, I thought the Titans would be 5-3 through eight games. I expected them to beat Minnesota and Indianapolis. Though in fairness, no one knew Jake Locker would get hurt.

At this point, they are closer to their worst-case scenario than their best.

The 2012 Football Outsiders Almanac predicted their final DVOA to be 6.6 percent overall, with 0.6 percent on offense and 0.3 percent on defense. They projected the Titans for 7.5 wins.

Through eight games, the Titans are -35.7 percent overall, with -17.7 percent on offense and 19.0 percent on defense.

In other words, they are way worse than anyone guessed.


Best Win

Without a doubt, the high point of the season was the thrilling upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though all three wins have been exciting games, there's always something special about sending the Terrible Towels home miserable.


Worst Loss

Losing to the Colts this past week was a serious stomach punch for a team that seemed to have turned the corner.

That loss all but ensures the Titans won't make the postseason, and the controversy surrounding the key fourth-quarter plays casts a shadow over the tenure of Mike Munchak.


Rookie Check Point

Kendall Wright has had his issues, but currently has 40 catches for 351 yards and three scores. He's well on pace to shatter his rookie expectations despite terrible advanced metrics.

Zach Brown's baseline was 10 starts, 30 tackles, and a sack. He has five starts, 27 tackles and a sack, so he's on his way to a strong rookie year.

Mike Martin was expected to get one sack and 20 tackles to have a good year. He already has two sacks and 12 tackles.


Must Improve

Michael Griffin signed a five-year deal to pay him like an elite safety.

Elite safeties don't often play for defenses that give up the second-most points in the NFL.

Griffin has graded out consistently as the worst Titans defender, and even if you don't buy into scouting grades, he's defended just one pass on the season.

He does have 38 tackles and has been better in run support than pass coverage, but there's no way to judge his performance as even average, let alone worthy of the huge extension he just landed.


Might Regress

It's hard to find a Titan who played well enough in the first half to merit inclusion as a regression candidate, but given the lofty completion percentage Jake Locker posted combined with his injury and time off, he's a strong suspect.

Locker was completing better than 63 percent of his passes with a passer rating over 90 when he went down, and even should he return at full strength, there's a good chance his numbers take a step back.

His sack rate and completion percentage were both dramatically improved, and that might well be who Locker is now.

If so, then that's fantastic news for the Titans. Still, it's reasonable to take him as a candidate to take a step back.


Second-Half Outlook

Even if everything breaks perfectly for the Titans, it's hard to find more than four wins, five at the most, on the schedule.

The defense should improve, simply because it can't get any worse.

Expect heavy doses of the passing offense once Jake Locker returns as the Titans try to answer questions about 2013 and set the team up moving forward.

Realistically, a 3-5 finish and a 6-10 overall record are the most likely results for the Titans.


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