Tennessee Titans 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Wes Reynolds: It looked like the Titans were going to “three-peat” as AFC South champions as they got off to a 7-3 start. Then, the injuries mounted, and they lost seven games in a row to close the season. They finished with the third-most Adjusted Games Lost (128.6), a Football Outsiders metric that quantifies games missed due to injury by starters and key situational players. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed five starts, including the final three games, due to ankle injuries. Tennessee had to start Joshua Dobbs, who was on the Lions' practice squad earlier in the season, on the road in Week 18 to decide the division title.
The Titans ranked 28th in points (17.5 ppg) and 30th in passing yardage (171.4 ypg). Tannehill does have a little more competition as Will Levis (Kentucky) was drafted in the second round. Todd Downing was shown the door, and Tim Kelly was promoted to offensive coordinator which could ease a little workload for Derrick Henry.
2022 first-round pick Treylon Burks had a disappointing season with just 33 catches and 444 yards and one touchdown in 11 games. This should be a much better season for Burks, but the receiver position is still thin. However, second-year tight end Chig Okonkwo averaged 14.1 yards per catch as a rookie and is the most explosive player the Titans have had at the position in recent memory.
After allowing 49 sacks, the Titans rebooted the offensive line especially at tackle by signing Andre Dillard away from the Eagles and drafting Peter Skoronski (Northwestern) 11th overall.
The injuries for Tennessee were especially brutal on defense as no team in the league had more Adjusted Games Lost on defense than the 85.6 for the Titans. Injuries were the main culprit for Tennessee allowing a league-worst 274.8 ypg through the air in 2022. The defensive line is one of the NFL’s best. Jeffery Simmons signed a four-year, $94 million extension in the offseason. He anchors a unit that led the league against the run (76.9 ypg).
Harold Landry III also returns after being lost for the season with a torn ACL just before last season began.
Perhaps no unit on this team should improve more than the secondary. Kevin Byard is still one of the best all-around safeties in the league, and Amani Hooker is one of the best safeties in coverage. Sean Murphy-Bunting did miss 13 games over the last two seasons in Tampa Bay but is still an above-average cover corner as he only allowed 4.3 yards per target last season.
The Titans certainly have flaws (receiver, still some OL questions, history of injuries in the secondary), but their demise has been exaggerated. Tennessee won nine or more games in each of the four seasons prior to 2022. Mike Vrabel is 20-19 straight up in games as an underdog. He is better when he is doubted a bit. This team is clearly undervalued in the market and due to finishing second in the division, the Titans get a break in the schedule with only six games of the 17 against playoff teams from 2022. At a current price of 4/1, they are a good bet to win the AFC South.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: The Titans spent the offseason determined to improve their offensive line. In their last preseason game against the Patriots, their starters had a hard time blocking the Patriots' second and third teams, which isn’t a good sign. For the Titans to win the South, they will need the line to perform at a higher level. And for all the wasted talk after the draft that Will Levis will beat out Ryan Tannehill, Levis didn’t beat out Malik Willis for the backup job. Tannehill will be the quarterback, and even though they changed offensive coordinators, the offense will still rely on Derrick Henry and the run game, with a heavy dose of play-action.
Under Mike Vrabel, the Titans have always been solid on defense, and they will be again this year with a better secondary, particularly at the corner position from adding Sean Murphy-Bunting. With Jeffery Simmons inside pressuring the passer, the Titans are a stout defensive team, and Vrabel always gets more out of his players than their talent.
If the offensive line comes together and there is doubt based on the summer preview — the Titans will be in the mix to win the South.
Player to Watch: RB Tyjae Spears
With a changing of the guard coming soon at quarterback, could we soon have one at running back as well? Spears has been getting a lot of press and a lot of run throughout the preseason, so he could be coming to challenge Henry’s throne in the Music City sooner rather than later. Henry led the NFL in carries for the third time in four seasons last year and the passing game looks questionable, so the Titans may rely heavily on the ground and pound with some thunder and lightning from the 250-pound veteran bruiser and the rookie out of Tulane. Henry’s 33 receptions and 41 targets were career-highs last season, but getting touches for Spears may be a priority that cuts into those numbers. - Adam Burke
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