After Monday night's dominating performance over conference foe Indianapolis, the Tennessee Titans stand as the only undefeated team left in the NFL. With a powerful running attack - void of superstar Vince Young- and a smothering defense, the upstart Titans have left many sports pundits scratching their respective noggins.
But are the Titans for real real or for play play?
The answer is a resounding "Maybe."
First, let's look at Kerry "Gray Beard" Collins. This guy is no firecracker. He's not even a snake or a sparkler. In the arsenal of Independence Day metaphors, he doesn't scratch the surface. Yet the collective gasp that was heard sucking gale-force winds into Nashville when Vince Young hurt his MCL seems to be unwarranted, as Collins has been nearly flawless, albeit unspectacular. His passer rating is a lukewarm 75 flat, and while his 58 completion percentage, the numbers don't show his clutch 3rd down conversions, nor does it show his ability to pass while using a walker.
But how good can a team be when its best player is on the bench? There are two undeniable axioms about the Tennessee Titans: their best player is Vince Young and they would not be undefeated were he playing this year. While these truths seem to be contradictory to one another, it becomes more clear when one seriously thinks about how good VY is.
A one-man show, Vincent can make something out of nothing, and has never had to rely on anyone else in his entire athletic career. But no one can do that in the NFL for very long, just ask Reggie Bush, whose "here's the ball — make something happen" offense at USC was formidable, but isn't as explosive in the NFL. Defenses wear down and Vince's other teammates don't get game speed reps, causing game plans to crumble, even in the wake of a tremendous touchdown run by Young. Collins allows Jeff Fisher's patented running game to come to fruition, where as Young often stifles that game plan —for better or for worse. Unfortunately for Fisher's running Titans, VY doesn't have to use those crummy excuses for receivers either, as he is his own self-made man, and when a receiver expectedly screws up, he can pick up the slack. Collins does have to play with those guy, and that might be his downfall once defensive coordinators pick up on the geriatrics's tactics of "hand off left" and "hand off right."
DISCLAIMER: The team is still Vince Young's team, by the way. He is maturing, incubating on the sidelines and patiently awaiting his return to dominance, once he learns to use his other teammates in his own way. Don't believe me? The Titans are known for bringing name-brand African-American quarterbacks to the limelight, just look at Steve McNair and Warren "Awesome" Moon.
You might as well call these Titans the Oilers, because their running attack is old school and me likey. Rookie Chris Johnson is doing his part with an average of over five yards per carry, and LenDale White is a breath of fresh air for portly people everywhere, especially after the disappointing Heisman drop off by Chubby Chase Daniel. Their line is big and experienced, and able to open holes for the terrible twosome. Football games are dependent on a strong running game, and the Titans don't lack in that department on either side of the ball.
Speaking of the other side of the ball, have you seen this front seven of mongrels the Titans put up as their defense? Sick and nasty are the only way to describe the likes of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon "the Freak" Kearse, Keith Bullock, and last but certainly not least, Albert "Face Stompin'" Haynesworth. These guys are going to the toast of the town all year long, although it must be said that their so-far-only-once-tested D will face steeper competition from more prepared offensive gurus who are sure to attempt to slice and dice the front seven up to their unexperienced secondary.
But as everyone knows, great runs are set up by good passes, and while Collins is certainly making due with two decent tight ends and several undecent receivers, the can't be expected to shelve the load off to Johnson and White all the way to the Super Bowl. McCareins? Gage? Jones? Hall? I'm fading fast boys; you're putting me to sleep. I remember the kicker, Auburn Rob Bironas before you guys, but in your defense that Tiger can play.
But considering the rest of the schedule, right now, the Titans are good to go. In an increasingly mediocre league (15 of the 32 teams are within one game, over or under, of being right at .500, with only New Orleans being the only at .500 with a 4-4 record), a seven game lead can actually go pretty far, especially in their division, the AFC South, where they reign as Kings, with the rest of the division sitting ugly at 3-4. Pittsburgh, New England and Buffalo have 5-2, and Washington, Carolina, and the New York Footballing Giants with six wins.
The League isn't set up for undefeated teams. For proof, see last year's Super Duper Bowl. And while I don't think anyone is seriously thinking this team can and will go undefeated, how far do we see these Titans going? They'll almost certainly get in the playoffs, despite a major collapse on the part of the entire organization. The rest of the schedule looks pretty good for the Titans, but look out for the Bears and the Steelers as well.
After all it's just a bunch of guys playing a game. Nothing is set in stone or already etched in a trophy.
Again, I'll reference the Super Duper Bowl.