Who can stop the Titans?
Less than two weeks ago, the RealFootball365.com “Odds on the odd” column featured a look at what one bookmaker dubbed “reactionary odds,” i.e., adjustments to certain high-profile posted lines like taking down that possible preseason 1/100 bet on the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIII.
At that point (it already seems so far in the past, doesn’t it?), four teams remained undefeated in the NFL. Today there are two, and just one is 5-0: The Tennessee Titans. Though no one is taking the possibility of a 16-0 season from the 2008 Titans seriously, Tennessee’s come-from-behind 13-10 win in Baltimore has to entertain discussion as to just how big this team can get.
(And don’t bring up the whole bad call argument: Luck is an essential spice in the recipe for success. After all, this is the franchise of the “Music City Miracle.")
One argument in favor of an unexpected monster record – say, 14-2 or 15-1 – from the Titans comes from the bottom of the food chain. In the NFL, a team’s one-year dominance usually indicates a headline-worthy terrible team or two at bottom. Last year provided an excellent example of the principle, of course, with the existence of the 16-0 (or 18-1, depending on location in football fandom) New England Patriots somewhat dependent on the 1-15 Miami Dolphins. And while the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons were going 15-1 and 14-2, respectively, back in 1998, the average game turned in by bottom-feeders the 3-13 Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles was a 12-point loss.
Despite parity in the league, the NFL sports three utterly terrible teams (Kansas City, Detroit and St. Louis) and a couple more that can’t buy a win (Cincinnati, Houston). Would you believe the Titans have three of these five remaining on the schedule, plus a date with Cleveland as well?
With 10 games left on the schedule, the bookmakers’ payouts are now long and sweet, as Tennessee has since dispatched the two then-favorites (Minnesota at 3/2 and Baltimore at 1/1) to end the run of perfection. Whom, then, will Tennessee first fall to? The schedule would appear to throw red flags for the following weeks; odds of Tennessee loss in parentheses.
Week 8: vs. Indianapolis (7/1). After a bye week this Sunday and a visit to Kansas City comes this Monday nighter against the Colts. Time may not be on the Titans' side here: Come on, bye week, Sunday game, Monday night game? Where’s the trip to London in there?
Week 10 at Chicago (20/1). In early November, this could be the first true cold weather game the Titans get this season. And the Bears’ tight schemes against the pass should keep Kerry Collins guessing.
Week 11 at Jacksonville (30/1). Another bit of weirdness in this already bizarre season: This could be the game of the week by Week 11 and the Titans and Jags fighting for the AFC South's top spot. On the other hand, one more hit to the personnel in Jacksonville and the Jags have to be done, right?
Week 13 at Detroit (50/1). Though the Lions will probably be 0-11 at this point in the season and haven’t won on Thanksgiving since 2003, those Thursday games can do wacky things to a team.
Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 17 at Indianapolis (125/1, 150/1). Wow. No matter the team records in these games, you've gotta be looking forward to these matchups already.
Finally, the Titans running the regular-season table was going off at 150/1 in September. It seems inconceivable to be sure, but so did the Titans entering the AFC playoffs as a top two seed – today considered a realistic (even expected) outcome.
Fan Pulse: Over at the team’s page on FootballsFuture.com, Titans fans are geeked on the 5-0 start; are giving much love to Chris Johnson, Michael Griffin and Bo Scaife; and are kicking around the undefeated season with all the quiet swagger of a seasoned operative working in the undeveloped world. It’s good to be on top.