- Former No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota certainly hasn’t been a bust, but he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, either. Could he have a breakthrough in his fourth NFL season?
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Titans 2018 win total: 8 (over -110, under -110)
Titans 2017 record: 9-7
Key offseason acquisitions: CB Malcolm Butler, LB Will Compton, QB Blaine Gabbert, OC Matt LaFleur, RB Dion Lewis, DT Bennie Logan, OG Kevin Pamphile, DC Dean Pees, S Kenny Vaccaro, HC Mike Vrabel
Key offseason losses: WR Eric Decker, DT Karl Klug, DC Dick LeBeau, HC Mike Mularkey, CB Brice McCain, RB DeMarco Murray, S Da’Norris Searcy, LB Erik Walden, DT Sylvester Williams, LB Avery Williamson
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Titans’ win total
1. Despite going to the playoffs and winning a game, the Titans cleaned house in the offseason. Out is Mike Mularkey, in is Mike Vrabel with an entirely new staff. He brought in Matt LaFleur, who was the offensive coordinator under Sean McVay with the Rams last year, and pried Dean Pees away from Baltimore to run the defense. This is a significant coaching upgrade across the board that cannot be overlooked, particularly on the offensive side of the ball where LaFleur will bring a new voice to a unit that desperately needed one.
2. The relationship between LaFleur and Marcus Mariota will go a long way toward determining if the Titans can make a return to the playoffs. Mariota certainly hasn’t been a bust, but he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, either. There has been more good than bad, though, and there’s still plenty of time for him to be the franchise quarterback the Titans believed they were getting when they selected him with the No. 2 pick in 2015. Whether he takes that next step will depend heavily on how he and his new offensive coordinator work together.
3. There is plenty of potential across this offense. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry make a formidable tandem in the backfield, with Lewis proving last year he’s a multi-dimensional threat. Corey Davis was never quite 100% last season because of a hamstring issue, but he was the No. 5 pick for good reason a year ago, and is still perfectly capable of developing into a true go-to receiver. Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews are two of the more underappreciated pass-catchers in the league, and would be perfectly cast as dangerous complementary players alongside a true No. 1 in Davis, assuming the second-year player can get there.
4. Vrabel and Pees will be tasked with molding a new-look defense into something better than the unit that ranked 21st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last year. Additions Bennie Logan, Will Compton and Malcolm Butler bring change to each level of the defense. The Titans used their first two picks on linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, giving the middle of the defense some youth behind Compton, Brian Orakpo, Wesley Woodyard and Derrick Morgan. Given the success Vrabel and Pees have had in their previous stops, there’s reason to believe they can make the most of this group.
5. The AFC South has a wide range of potential outcomes, depending mostly on the health of Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck. The Jaguars appear ready to be a multi-season powerhouse. If Watson can play as well all season as he did before tearing his ACL last year, and if Luck is all the way back, the AFC South will be brutal to navigate. The division matches up with the AFC East and NFC East, which means games with last year’s Super Bowl teams, but possibly soft matchups otherwise outside of the Patriots and Eagles. The Titans round out their schedule with the Ravens and Chargers, a couple of serious playoff contenders. The question is how much this overachieving team from a year ago is able to carry over, and how much more value the new coaching staff will be able to coax out of it.
PICK: UNDER 8 wins
Other NFL team betting previews: Rams, Redskins, Panthers, Lions, Ravens, Patriots, Jets, Vikings, Bills, Raiders, Cowboys, Texans, Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Buccaneers, Bengals, Giants, Saints, Packers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks