We have witnessed some fairly remarkable reversals of fortune from the Tennessee Titans following a bye week.
There is no example more stirring than 2009, when they started 0-6 — capped by a 59-0 loss at New England — took a week off then won their next five and eight of the last 10.
Those sorts of things are the exception, though, and we have seen nothing from the first half of this season to suggest these Titans — fresh off their bye — will look or play dramatically different in their final eight games, beginning Sunday at Baltimore.
Three reasons to believe the Titans will succeed Sunday
• Zach attack: Everyone in the organization has had time to digest the change at quarterback to rookie Zach Mettenberger. Plus, the bye week provided opportunity to identify and practice the things Mettenberger does well rather than focus on an upcoming opponent. From the moment he was drafted, the sense was that this was coach Ken Whisenhunt’s guy. If this is going to work, there should be some positive signs in this game.
• Inside knowledge: Even though he is on injured reserve and unable to play, safety Bernard Pollard’s presence has to be worth something this week. For years, the Titans looked as if the unfailingly physical Ravens could occasionally intimidate them. With Pollard around, at least Titans have a sense of how that team thinks. So it should not be a mystery or inspire any sort of awe as it once did.
• Getting picky: All four members of the current starting secondary — cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson and safeties Michael Griffin and George Wilson — have at least one interception this season. Among the top 10 quarterbacks, in terms of passing yards, Joe Flacco’s eight interceptions thrown are second only to Andrew Luck’s nine. There will be opportunities for picks. The Titans need to make them when they are presented.
Three reasons to believe the Titans will struggle Sunday
• Running on: Whatever the effect off the field, the Ravens certainly have handled the Ray Rice scandal on the field. Veteran Justin Forsett has rushed for 609 yards (more than twice as many as Tennessee’s leader, Bishop Sankey) and Baltimore averages 121 rushing yards per game, ninth in the NFL. Its nine rushing touchdowns are tied for sixth in the league and more than twice the Titans’ total.
• Size matters: Baltimore’s leading receiver is Steve Smith, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 195 yards. Kendall Wright (5-10, 191) is tied for the Titans’ lead. The size of their respective statistics differ greatly, however. Smith has 46 catches for 711 yards (an average of 15.5 yards) and four touchdowns. Wright has 35 catches for 350 yards (an average of 10 yards) with four touchdowns. It’s not the size of the player, it's the size of the plays he makes. And Smith is a bona fide big-play guy.
• Location, location, location: Field position matters, and the Ravens gain advantages in several ways. They lead the league in average yards per kickoff return at 31.2, which is seven yards more than they allow. They are plus-2.7 yards in net punting and punter Sam Koch has had 15 punts downed inside the 20 with just two touchbacks.
The bottom line
Players and coaches are saying all the right things about wanting to win games now and trying to make the most of what’s left of this season. However, it is impossible to think anything other than that the Titans have started to build for next year.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are in the midst of a real battle for position in the league’s toughest division. Only three of their first nine opponents currently have losing records, and they won those three by a combined 115-34.
The Titans are not good enough. If they win, it will be a huge upset.
Avenue Diner LLC owner Steve Smith has received a deferral on his request that the Metro Board of Zoning Appeals allow his 24-hour diner project in SoBro to move forward. Smith will now go before the BZA on Oct. 2 to request the BZA approve an interpretation to the downtown zoning code related to sidewalk requirements. If successful, Smith can resume construction of the building (for which a stop work order halted work), which would rise six stories at Third Avenue South and Demonbreun Street. Click here for background.
Call it a Napoleon complex. Call it short man syndrome. Call it little man disease.
Whatever you call it, it’s real. Confirmation and definitions of it exist from the upper crust of academia all the way to the urban dictionary.
This definition comes the latter: “An angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his abnormally short stature.”
Playing in the NFL at 5-foot-10, Kendall Wright is decidedly a candidate. Among the 90 players on the Tennessee Titans training camp roster only three (Dexter McCluster, Leon Washington and Waymon James) are shorter. Even one of the kickers has three inches on him.
The 2012 first-round draft pick seems utterly immune, though. He definitely is not an angry man and he doesn’t engage in the histrionics so many other wide receivers do.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t talk a whole lot but you can see his competitive spirit the way he plays the game,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “None of you could argue that with me. You watch him play the game and the emotion he plays the game with, the intensity … he’s just a football player. You can tell that and everybody else in the locker room can tell that. I think he gains respect that way.”
That, and he puts up some big numbers. Last fall he led the team and was seventh in the league with 94 receptions, the franchise’s highest single-season total in a decade and the fifth highest total in team history.
Over the last five seasons 22 different players have caught 90 or more passes in a season a total of 38 times. Just six of those 22, including Wright, were listed at smaller than six feet.
Wes Welker is the only one of the short guys to do it more than once. He did so three times, tied for the most over that span with five who 6-foot and taller. That group includes Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jason Witten.
A look at the sub 6-foot players who caught 90 passes or more in a season from 2009 through 2013:
• Wes Welker (5-foot-9): 123 in 2009; 122 in 2011; 118 in 2012
• Antonio Brown (5-foot-10): 110 in 2013
• Steve Smith (5-foot-11): 107 in 2009
• Julian Edelman (5-foot-10): 105 in 2013
• Kendall Wright (5-foot-10): 94 in 2013
• Santana Moss (5-foot-10): 93 in 2010
(Note: The Steve Smith referenced is the one who played for the New York Giants in 2009, not the one who played for the Carolina Panthers)
Only two players in Titans/Oilers history have caught 90 or more passes in consecutive seasons. Haywood Jeffires did it in 1991 and 1992, at the height of the franchise’s run-and-shoot era, and Derrick Mason (also 5-foot-10, by the way) in 2003 and 2004.
If Wright can match – or exceed – last year’s numbers this season, therefore, it would be a notable achievement.
“I’ll be doing good if I get 95,” he said. “That’s better than it was last year. I mean, 100 is not important but if I get it that’s a good thing for me and for us. I’m not even thinking stats. I just want to be better than I was last year as an individual and as a whole team.”
Based on his size, most analysts classify Wright as a slot receiver. According to FootballOutsiders.com, though, he played more than 75 percent of the Titans’ offensive snaps in 2013, up from 55.8 percent his rookie season.
Through the first four days of this training camp, he clearly is the Titans’ No. 1 receiver.
“I love proving people wrong,” Wright said. “As long as people are saying negative things, that drives me to be what I am. It makes it that much better, that much more fun to go out there and work and be better than I was.”
OK. So maybe he has a little bit of it in him.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS