NFL Week 6: Titans Defense Struggles
Tennessee Titans (5-0) vs Houston Texans (1-5)
Final: 42-36 (OT)
Through 6 weeks and 5 games played, the Tennessee Titans look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. There are some question marks to address through the rest of the season, but this team has serious potential to work with.
Arguments Against Tennessee’s Super Bowl Chances
Much of the argument against Tennessee stems from the level of competition it has played in the early part of the season and the vulnerabilities on the defensive side of the ball.
These are valid concerns to an extent.
The overall record of Tennessee’s opponents through Week 6 is 9-20, with 4 of those wins belonging to the only team they’ve played that’s over .500 – the Buffalo Bills. The more interesting fact is that the Titans beat the Bills by 26 points, but only beat all other opponents by a total of 12 points or 3 points per game. Admittedly, two of these games came against division rivals, which are usually more competitive than other games, but the Titans seem to be playing down to the level of their opponents, which is not really a good sign.
The inability to pull away from these teams with losing records most likely lies with the defense, but these offenses aren’t all bad either.
Taking a look at each game the Titans have won against teams with a losing record, the only team with a top 10 offensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) is the Houston Texans, who are currently 1-5 with a 27th ranked defense by DVOA. It’s very worrying that Tennessee is giving up incredible numbers to offenses that rank either average (Jacksonville is 17th, Minnesota is 20th in Off. DVOA) or just bad (Denver is 27th). The Titans’ defense is making bad offenses look good and good offenses look great.
(Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)
The Titans themselves are the 22nd ranked defense by defensive DVOA, which is backed up by Ben Baldwin’s defensive EPA/play measures. It’s a slightly below average unit that performed better last year, but seems to be missing their legendary coordinator Dean Pees, who retired this offseason. The team has a chance to turn it around, they did it on offense last year, but they have not looked like the same defensive team from last year.
Except against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have the 11th ranked offensive DVOA and a top tier dropback EPA/play, yet the Titans held them to only 16 points. Watching the game and looking at the advanced metrics show the story of the season: Tennessee cannot stop teams on 3rd down. On 1st and 2nd down, the Bills produced negative EPA/play, but on 3rd down that skyrocketed to .35. The major difference in this game was the ability to take advantage of opportunities for turnovers, including a lucky bounce on the first drive.
Performing this poorly and relying constantly on a little luck, this team is beatable. But if the defense can continue to produce turnovers, there is less cause for worry. But at the moment, the team is thriving off the high-powered offense led by Ryan Tannehill.