The State of the State: Tennessee

June 27, 2023

Can the Tennessee Titans hang on for one more run?

The AFC South is a crapshoot, so a bet on the Titans is as good as any

There are two ways to view the Tennessee Titans – and to some extent the entire AFC South:

First, the Titans are a team with veteran leaders, a solid head coach and play in a division that might be the most wide-open in all of football. Is Tennessee elite? Probably not, but they’re certainly capable of competing in the mysterious AFC South.

And second, the Titans – as gritty and physical and stubborn as they’ve been for the better part of the last seven seasons – could possibly be about to hit the end of their rope.

Nobody is about to suggest that the Titans can summon enough magic to win a Super Bowl or even compete for a conference championship (although a Mike Vrabel team is always capable of a surprise), but in the past seven years, they’ve won nine or more games six times. Unfortunately, and to make matters a bit more complex, it was last season when they didn’t, turning in a disappointing 7-10 campaign.

In Vrabel’s five-year career as the Titans head coach, he’s either finished first or second in the division four times. The only time he didn’t hit the mark was his first in Tennessee, where the Titans still managed to win nine games.

What happened last season? Did the Jaguars truly emerge? Or did the Titans run out of gas with a depleted roster that featured 23 players on injured reserve by season’s end. Did Tennessee finally run Derrick Henry into the ground or get all that Ryan Tannehill has to offer, especially at ages 30 and 35 respectively?

The Titans devoted much of their offseason to improving their offensive line – a great step in maximizing both Henry and Tannehill – and there’s recently been a lot of hype surrounding Henry’s offseason workouts. But how you answer the aforementioned questions will largely dictate how you might wager on the Titans in 2023.

There’s one school of thought that suggests betting on the South at all is a crapshoot, that this division that doesn’t (yet) have a dominant team is risky all together. There’s another that says the Jaguars and their young core of star players have turned the corner and it’s Jacksonville’s division to lose.

And finally, there’s still a very rational belief that the Titans aren’t done just yet – any team that can dish out as much punishment as Tennessee has a shot in any given season.

If, hypothetically, you still buy into what the Titans are selling, there are essentially three bets to truly consider. First, their win total, which sits modestly at 7.5 (taking the over is priced at +105). Second, predicting Tennessee to sneak its way into the playoffs (+280). Or, lastly, betting on the Titans to win the AFC South, which would pay handsomely at +425.

Last season, the Jaguars won the South with just nine wins. The Titans, as battered and beaten as they were, came in second with seven wins. The conservative approach is to take the over-7.5 wins, assuming that Tennessee is surely one game better with a healthy roster and improved offensive line. But the real payoff is to pick them to win a division that’s still very winnable.

Sure, the hype-train for the Jaguars is building momentum. Then again, they’re not going to sneak up on anyone this season. Tennessee, on the other hand, might be improved just ever so slightly. With an injury here, a favorable bounce there –or even just a heavy, healthy dose of Derrick Henry – you might as well cash out when the Titans win nine games and win the division.  

Steve Quinne’s pick: Tennessee to Win AFC South +425