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VOL. 45 | NO. 44 | Friday, October 29, 2021

Stars aligning for Titans

Big wins, favorable schedule flip the story line

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With back-to-back home wins against what was supposed to be two of the best teams the AFC has to offer – Buffalo and Kansas City – you can expect the Tennessee Titans to begin getting some long-sought – at least in the eyes of fans – national recognition.

After all, at 5-2 the Titans own a share of the best record in the conference and, without sifting through the NFL’s complicated tiebreaker system after just seven games, are tied with the Raiders for the second seed in the AFC, behind only the Bengals. (Yes, you read that right, the Bengals.)

And looking ahead, Titans’ opponents are a combined 24-35, including the 1-6 Texans, who the Titans will play twice. Just two remaining teams – the Rams at 6-1 and Saints at 4-2 – have winning records. The Titans play the Rams in Los Angeles Nov. 7.

But back to the present. Suddenly, Tennessee looked like a complete football team Sunday with contributions from both the run and the pass on offense, a standout defense that pressured Patrick Mahomes – forcing three turnovers – and flawless special teams.

Their dominating 27-3 victory against the Chiefs, just six days after a goal-line stand preserved a win versus Buffalo, could have many finally remembering the Titans when it comes to the AFC’s top contenders.

But, taking their cue from Coach Mike Vrabel, Titans players are being careful not to put too much stock into what they have accomplished when the season has not yet reached its midway point.

Sure, wins against Buffalo and Kansas City might be a factor in December and January when it’s time for playoff seeding, but Vrabel was having none of that talk in late October.

“We are seven games in, 5-2. So a long way to go,” Vrabel says.

Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown grabs a selfie with fans as he’s leaving the field following Sunday’s 27-3 win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

-- Photo By Wade Payne | Ap

Those wins carry some weight, but the feeling around Saint Thomas Sports Park is not to let the recent past overshadow what is coming.

“This is one game,” says receiver A.J. Brown, who finished the Chiefs game with eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. “We didn’t win the Super Bowl today, so we’re not going to get big-headed about one win.”

Looking forward to Sunday in Indianapolis, the Titans could almost nail down the division title at the season’s halfway mark. The 3-4 Colts are the only team within reasonable striking distance, with Jacksonville and Houston at 1-5 and 1-6, respectively.

The Titans already have one win against the Colts – 25-16 at Nissan Stadium Sept. 16 – and could earn their first season sweep of their top rival since 2017. Before that, the Titans lost 11 consecutive and 16 or 17 against the Colts, who were led during much of that period by quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

The Colts have won four of the last seven matchups.

Tennessee’s Kevin Byard returns an interception during the Titans’ Monday Night win against the Buffalo Bills. He is tied for third in the NFL with three interceptions through seven games.

-- Photo By Matt Patterson | Ap

The players, meanwhile, say the past and future – as well as the accolades coming their way this week – are irrelevant, and the focus is on the next game.

“The league is going to do its thing,’’ Brown adds. “They’re going to say, ‘Look out for the Titans. They beat the Chiefs. They beat the Bills. But for us, it’s a week-to-week league. “We’ve got to come in and go to work every week, no matter what the game plan.

“Nobody knows who is going to win when you go out there,” he adds. “You can have the perfect game plan and it all go wrong. It’s a week-to-week league, and we’re going to try to stay focused next week against the Colts.”

Safety Kevin Byard echoes Brown’s sentiment.

“We don’t really look at who is the best team here and there,” Byard explains. “They’re not handing out Lombardi Trophies in the middle of the season, so we’re not going to get caught up in this win either. We’ll enjoy it and then get ready for a big division matchup against the Colts on the road.”

Success can be fleeting in the NFL, as the Titans learned when they lost to the Jets – now 1-5 – Oct. 2.

“You sleep on anybody in this league, it’s going to come back and haunt you,” Vrabel says.

Adds Byard: “In this league, if you don’t come out and perform on Sundays, you’re going to get your behind whooped.”

Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.

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