- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 16. This week: No. 11.
Where they stand: At 5-3, the Titans are even with Indianapolis atop the AFC South. It’s odd to be applying division record as a tiebreaker with a team that has played one division game, but the Titans are 1-0 and the Colts are 1-2, so the edge is Tennessee’s right now. While the Titans have been inconsistent, they’ve had a good pass rush and strong red zone defense, and halfway through the season they are No. 1 in the NFL with an average of 28 points a game. And now they’ve added Randy Moss to the arsenal.
Falling: Third down defense. The Titans were holding opponents to a third down conversion rate of just under 30 percent through six games and it was a defensive hallmark. But in a win over Philadelphia and a loss at San Diego they gave third-down conversions at a rate double that. It was a point of emphasis during their bye and the Titans expect the return of defensive tackle Tony Brown from a chronic knee issue will help the cause. Miami will be a good challenge in this department, as the Dolphins offense ranks fourth in the league on third down.
Rising: Vince Young. He has been showing improvement since the poor showing against Pittsburgh, in which he was pulled. Since then, he has missed a game and segments of two others because of knee and ankle injuries. But he has seven touchdowns and no picks in that span. Enter Moss. If there is a perception among some nationally that Young doesn’t throw well deep, it’s mistaken. He’s better rated throwing long than he is throwing short. Still, connecting with an all-time great who is used to Tom Brady is another new, big challenge.
Midseason MVP: We could go several different directions here with Young and the resurgent Michael Griffin each having a solid case. If we weren’t measuring Chris Johnson against last year, we might jump at the NFL’s third-leading rusher, who is second in rushing touchdowns with eight. But after much deliberation, the call is defensive end Jason Babin, who has a career-high seven sacks already and has provided relentless pressure.
Outlook: The Titans control their own fate because they’re tied for the lead and are 1-0 in division play. But they don’t have anything that looks close to a walkover left. Jacksonville at home will likely prove a tough division contest after a blowout in the first matchup. There are two against Houston and two against the Colts along with a home matchup against Washington and trips to Miami and Kansas City. Every one of those teams is .500 or better. A playoff berth is possible, but will be difficult to grab.