Any coach and organization in the NFL will tell you it’s too early to start thinking about calling the season after week 6, and the fortunes of teams that start slowly can quite possibly turn around barring some luck and proper execution. However, after this point in the NFL season, the teams dwelling at the bottom of the standings quite clearly have some big holes, whether due to injury, coaching, or just a lack of depth at certain positions.
Professionals refuse to call it tanking, and the coaches and players on the field will never give up and lose on purpose, but at a certain point certain teams will (whether they admit it or not) stop fighting for the playoffs and start looking to rebuild for next year. The owners and GMs may look to lose enough games to get a high draft pick, or even number 1, for the team with the worst record.
There are no teams without any wins so far this season, so for the purposes of this article, I plan to look at all the teams with the lowest win totals in the league at this point, and the reasons they may or may not be sitting at the bottom of the standings at the end of the year. There may indeed be another team that ends up at the bottom, but for now these teams seem primed to take that last (or first) spot.
Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Why they will get the 1st overall pick:
They are not terrible on either side of the ball. They rank 22nd in pass yards per game at 232.8 and 16th at 107.6 yards per game rushing. They are scoring 22.4 points per game, the 16th best clip, and the defenseis allowing 25.8 points per game, which comes in at 20th. In each of the categories, they are not bad; right at or a little bit under average. That is the issue though; they are not really good at anything.
Rookie QB Marcus Mariota, except for his 4 TD wrecking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is relatively mediocre, as one might expect from a first-year signal caller. The offense is putting up enough points to be in most games, but has not shown consistent ability to really step on the gas and pile up points when they need to.
The defense, which many though would get better with the addition of Brian Orakpo at the linebacker spot, is, again, not awful, but is not carrying the team the way that some hoped it might. They are not causing a ton of turnovers, a big part of effective defense. Tennessee has actually forced 7 fumbles on the year, which is pretty solid, but they have only been able to recover 1 of them, which is the more important part.
The team is losing the season turnover battle; giving away 11 and only causing 7, which is not a recipe for success. The team is so young, with Bishop Sankey and Dorial Green-Beckham trying to play big roles in the offense after being drafted high in the last 2 years, and they are just not gelling yet in the way that these skill players need to in order for the team to succeed.
They also have had their bye-week already, which means that they no longer have a week off to rest and get some players recovering quickly from injuries, which could prove costly to them.
Why they won’t get the 1st overall pick:
The biggest thing is that they are in the AFC South. The division holds three other teams that are extremely inconsistent and beatable The Jaguars, The Texans, and even The Colts (point proven). They still have two games against Houston, and two against Jacksonville, which could be good for 3-4 wins down the stretch, and they may be able to pull off a few more. Even if they get to just 5 wins on the entire year, that could be enough to keep them from the bottom spot, as there usually ends up being teams that get even less, like themselves last year.
Mariota, though he seems to have been a 1-hit-wonder so far in the year, and is battling an injury right now, has shown promise that he can make a splash in the league. He is extremely athletic, and further on in the year it is quite possible that he could establish a better connection with the offense and create some more plays than they have so far. Sankey leads an RB-by-committee group that has been pretty pedestrian so far, but he has a lot of promise as well, and a break out by him and the other rushers could really make the offense thrive and take some of the pressure off of Mariota, or Zach Mettenberger if he has to get thrown in at QB due to injury.
The statistic about fumbles is almost difficult to believe, that they have forced 7 but only have actually recovered one of them. If the defense continues to create opportunities like that, sooner or later the ball might bounce their way (get it?) and that could lead to better field position, and more opportunities to win games. Nobody expected this defense to be incredible, but they are talented enough that they could be able to keep themselves in some games, and pull out enough victories to not be sitting at #32 in the standings after week 17.
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