It’s over. The Tennessee Titans are toast. The old-as-dirt Dolphins will raise a glass come Sunday afternoon because the undefeated will be no more.
Yeah, I’m sayin’ it. The New York Jets will beat the Titans this Sunday to dash the NFL’s last unbeaten team.
The Titans are the 11th team since 1970 to go 10-0. Seven of the previous 10 went to the Super Bowl. Five were Super Bowl champs.
But this isn’t about the Super Bowl; it’s about Sunday. And on that day, the Titans will be losers.
I love both teams. I love the Titans because Jeff Fisher has created an old-school unit with new-school juice. They play leather-helmet defense and are guided by a geriatric QB (Kerry Collins) who’s been cast away more times than Tom Hanks. And yet in guys like their Hammer and Sickle running backs – LenDale White and Chris Johnson, third- and first-year kiddies – they embody a youthful exuberance that doesn’t seem to know any better.
I haven’t always been able to say I love the Jets. They’ve been erratic and confounding, but that’s pretty much Brett Favre’s dossier. You knew when he was acquired that he would either bring you glory or gore. Eighteen touchdown passes, 12 picks. Favre from perfect, but the Jets are 7-3 and leading the AFC East.
So these are two good teams playing a game that has little long-term implications for either. No matter what happens Sunday, both will remain in contention for first-round playoff byes and storybook playoff runs.
But this isn’t about the playoffs; it’s about Sunday.
There are some tangible reasons why the Jets will win. They are coming off a 34-31 overtime victory in Foxborough in which they exorcised demons against the rival Patriots. That was a purging triumph that allows the Jets to now play free from the burdens of their past. In other words, Sunday is gravy. Win or lose, they beat the Pats and that matters more.
Also, the Titans have proven themselves worthy of their record, winning successive road games the past two weeks. Back at home on Sunday, it’ll become all about the record. At some point Sunday, they’ll realize that while you indeed play to win the game, you really play to win the Super Bowl and a November loss when you’ve got “0” may not be such a bad thing.
More tangibly, the Jets will win because of their offensive and defensive lines. In a sense, they play misdirection football. While you’re watching Favre and Thomas Jones (leading rusher in the AFC; bet you didn’t know that), their offensive line has gelled into an almost immovable force that carves (for Jones) and protects (for Favre.)
On the other side of the ball, the Jets are equally immovable, allowing only 81.3 rushing yards per game – fourth best in pro football. Johnson and White will have a good day, but not a great one. So before the afternoon sun sets, Collins will have to beat the Jets.
And he won’t.
The Titans are stingy with points, allowing just 181 in their 10 games – fewer than anyone in the NFL. But Favre will score enough.
Enough to win.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press