A year ago the Tennessee Titans were a pretty fashionable pick to make the playoffs, give the Indianapolis Colts a run for their money in the AFC South, and finish with double-digit wins.
Then they came out of the gates 0-6, capped by a 59-0 drubbing in New England.
The Titans finished on an 8-2 run, but ultimately fell short of the post-season with their 8-8 record.
That terrible start a year ago has to be a good thing for this year's edition, though, right? Because there's no way they're going to want to suffer through a repeat performance.
They're taking steps to make sure they can continue that successful run of 8 wins in 10 games to end the season. Vince Young is entrenched as the starter, after he was the catalyst that sparked the comeback run by the team a year ago. And Jeff Fisher is an excellent coach who I'm sure will continually find ways to remind the Titans that a 13-3 team (the 2008 Titans) can easily be 0-6 (2009). As a member of the competition committee he has spoken numerous times about how very close in talent the teams in the NFL are, and I'm sure his team gets that message all the time. That will help them avoid slipping into a similar hole to start this season.
It also helps to have the best player in football. Running back Chris Johnson set an NFL record for total yards last year, and as talented as he is, the offensive line helped. In addition to helping pave the way for the NFL's number two rushing attack, the Titans' offensive line only allowed 15 sacks last year. As long as Johnson's body holds up (which shouldn't be a problem this year, at least) the Titans' offense will continue to move the ball.
The defense is where a lot of the fault for the poor start early (and some of the credit for the turnaround late) lies. The unit as a whole ranked 28th overall, and second-to-last against the pass. In a division that features Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub, that's a flaw that needs to be fixed.
In the end, though the Titans will be more consistent and ultimately more successful this year, they're going to fall victim to the strength of the AFC in 2010 and barely miss the playoffs. It'll be a harder pill for them to swallow than last year - because unlike last season when the Titans almost made the playoffs, this year's team will have earned the right to play in the post-season.
2010 Prediction: 9-7, 3rd Place in AFC South