It’s ridiculous to say the Titans-Lions game Sunday is a must win for the Titans.
Or is it? The Titans are 0-1. The Lions are 1-0.
So why is it a must win for the Titans?
If they want to shock the NFL world and get to the playoffs after winning five games in the past two seasons, it starts Sunday.
Since 2007, of 66 teams that started 0-2, only five made the playoffs. Teams that were 2-0, 38 made the playoffs. At 1-1, the odds are like 40 percent.
So if the Titans come back to Tune Town carrying a burden of 0-2, it will have even more of a mountain to climb to reach the playoffs.
Despite all the positive moves the Titans have made in the off-season, the odds are against them making the playoffs. It is thought the other three teams in the AFC South have made as much, or more, progress toward turning their seasons around.
So far, that’s debatable.
Houston is the only AFC South team that opened the season at 1-0. They beat the Bears, 23-14, in Texas. The other three teams are 0-1. Jacksonville lost to Green Bay at Jacksonville, 27-23, and Detroit opened at Indianapolis, winning, 39-35.
The Titans believe they handed the game to Minnesota, 25-16. Sure, they threw away a halftime lead, but two turnovers for touchdowns according to Titans Coach Mike Mularkey as “catastrophic,’’ was too much for the Titans to overcome.
They can’t afford mistakes that end up helping their opponent.
The Titans’ costliest mistakes were made by second year quarterback Marcus Mariota. His two turnovers paved the way for the Vikings.
“Early in the game, one of the things I was really impressed with was he threw the ball away a couple of times, in bad situations. We lived another day and got the point,’’ Mularkey said of Mariota.
“That will be a learning experience for Marcus that when he didn’t do it, he took the chance. That play was a game changer. If there’s somebody on this team that I know will learn and probably not do that again, it is him.’’
The Titans have a lot to clean up. If they play 60 minutes like they did in the first half of the Vikings game, they will likely win. Should they play like they did in the second half, they will lose.
The Titans defense allowed 25 points to the Vikings, who started a backup quarterback in Shaun Hill, who did what he had to do to help his team win, or more important, help his team not lose.
It will face off Sunday with veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, who when on can scorch a secondary. They need to pressure him and tackle running backs and wide receivers.
If not, it will be a long Sunday afternoon.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.