The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the hopeful Tennessee Titans.
2017 in a nutshell: Despite surrendering more points than they score, they sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record in a the shallow AFC and then beat the Chiefs for their first playoff victory since 2003.
What’s different: Bland head coach Mike Mularkey has been replaced by high-energy rookie head coach Mike Vrabel, who grew up on Bill Cowher and Bill Belichick.
Why they could be awesome: Vrabel and new defensive coordinator Dean Pees can take the defense to the next level, and new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur can do the same with quarterback Marcus Mariota and Co.
Why they could suck: There’s an unknown element with Vrabel, and Mariota didn’t take off the way many expected in 2017.
Major additions: More former Patriots (running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler).
Major losses: Linebacker Avery Williamson, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, running back DeMarco Murray.
Breakout watch: Third-year running back Derrick Henry has accumulated 1,507 scrimmage yards while scoring 11 touchdowns and averaging 4.3 yards per carry as a backup in his first two seasons, and now he should play a much larger role with Lewis in and Murray out. He’s a beast, and he could become a star in 2018.
Position to watch: They won’t take off and become a true contender unless they get more out of the quarterback position. Mariota’s rate-based numbers plummeted in what was supposed to be a breakout third season. A healthy Corey Davis at wide receiver should help, but he also won’t have star right tackle Jack Conklin to start the season so it’s tough to tell how he’ll look.
Prediction: Mariota has my vote. He’s a play-maker, and he’s got just enough support on both sides of the ball now. Tennessee might not be ready to roll to the Super Bowl yet, but they’ll actually deserve a playoff berth this time around.
10-6, 2nd place in the AFC South