Tennessee Titans Progress Report: Where Things Stand Heading into Week 13

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 28, 2012

Velasco has been a bright spot.
Velasco has been a bright spot.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans are 4-7 on the 2012 season and stand in third place in the AFC South.

In Week 13, they take on the Houston Texans at LP Field in Nashville.

They rank 24th on offense, 29th on defense and 29th overall in DVOA.

Primary Talking Point for Week 13

With offensive coordinator Chris Palmer gone, the Titans surely will go on a rampage and tear through their final five games of the year, going 9-7, making the playoffs and embarking on a glorious Super Bowl run.

Or not.

Palmer's dismissal is a good barometer of where the team is overall. Tennessee has talent, at least on offense, but has drastically underperformed expectations.

It goes deeper than just the roster, however, it's a team-wide plague. Had Tennessee just put 11 men on the field for two key plays against the Colts, it would be 5-6 right now and just game back in the playoff push.

Sunday's contest against the Texans is a dangerous one. While no one favors Tennessee to win, if it fails to compete or looks overmatched, it could well spell the end of the road for Mike Munchak.

2012 has been disappointing for the Titans, but it doesn't have to be a complete disaster.

They are going to have to play a lot better down the stretch to make it so.

Player on the Rise

Center Fernando Velasco may have won his job via injury, but he's keeping it with solid play.

A year after the nightmare that was was Eugene Amano, Velasco has quietly stabilized the middle of the Titans' line.

The Titans are in the top 10 in adjusted sack rate and third in power running situations. They've jumped from 31st in runs up the middle in 2011 to 18th in 2012.

Velasco has graded out well more often than not, and hasn't had a bad game since Week 2. Pro Football Focus has him as the Titans' second-best lineman behind Michael Roos.

Feel-Good Stat of the Week

Chris Johnson is averaging 4.9 yards a carry. That's tied for the second-highest mark of his career and matches his rookie-year performance.

He is posting a positive DVOA running for the first time since 2009, and has the highest success rate of his career at 47 percent.

Whatever the troubles are with the Titans, it's difficult to argue Johnson is one of them. The team will have an interesting call to make on his future with the team.

Troubling Stat of the Week

You want something other than "4-7"?

Try this: 0.0 percent.

That's the Titans' strength of past schedule compared to league average.

That's right, the Titans have played a perfectly average schedule overall. It wasn't too hard. It wasn't too easy.

Who you play matters in the NFL. Take a team like the Colts. They've played the 25th-easiest schedule and they've ridden it to seven wins. Or consider the Cowboys. They've played the fifth-hardest schedule but are still alive for a playoff spot.

The Titans can't take any consolation whatsoever for their situation.

While the opening stretch of the year seemed difficult, teams like the Chargers and Lions have been revealed to be complete pushovers.

The fact is that the Titans are legitimately a four-win team. If anything, their Pythagorean win total suggests they've slightly over-performed.

Overall Trend: Falling

Palmer's firing had a nasty air about it. Players openly talked about how much better things will be. Palmer pointed fingers on his way out.

It feels like the Titans are a box of kindling and J.J. Watt is coming to town with a truckload of matches.

Watch the Titans closely on Sunday. The future course of the franchise could be functionally decided by the end of the day.


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