For Tennessee Titans fans, it is time to feel excited about the team again. It is not often that that can be said coming off a loss, but I believe the statement fits. For the third consecutive time, the Titans took defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis down to the final seconds. They are now playing consistently well against elite teams.
This week they travel to New Orleans to play the Saints. When looking at this game on the schedule a few weeks ago, most would have classified the Saints as an elite team. However, they have stumbled to start the season and have an 0-2 record. They got waxed by Indianapolis 41-10 in week one, then fell behind Tampa Bay 28-0 last week before losing 31-14.
The Saints' defense isn’t stopping anybody and as fantasy football coaches can attest, quarterback Drew Brees and running back Reggie Bush haven't hit their stride yet. Playing their first home game this week should help, but the Saints look like a classic example of a team suffering a hangover from the previous season.
Last year, New Orleans was the NFL's feel good story of the year. They returned to the city after being driven to San Antonio in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and played a significant role in returning spirit and pride to the city. They came out of nowhere to win their division and advanced to the conference championship game where they lost to the Bears.
So far this year, they look out of sync. This means trouble because the Titans continue to build momentum. They already have gotten one significant road win when they beat Jacksonville to begin the season.
Tennessee's physical offensive line will control the game, and running backs LenDale White and Chris Brown should be able to pound the ball. Sprinkle in a few big plays by quarterback Vince Young, and it looks like a Tennessee win.
The pick: Tennessee 27 New Orleans 20
As for the Tennessee Volunteers, they get a breather this week when Arkansas State visits Knoxville. Wait a minute...did I say breather? At this point, no game for the Vols can be considered a breather because they have not shown the ability to play 60 consistent minutes of football.
The defense and punt return team looked hopeless against Florida. The offense showed some life, but the receivers dropped key passes and the offensive line got no surge to establish the running game.
As for Arkansas State, they play in the Sun Belt Conference, which also includes Middle Tennessee State. Most preseason experts picked them to finish in the middle of the pack in the conference. However, they opened the season at Texas and took the Longhorns into the fourth quarter before losing 21-13.
The bottom line is Tennessee does not do anything easy these days. Couple their inconsistent play with the emotionally devastating loss to Florida, and they will likely begin this game in a fog.
However, talent will eventually win out, but the game will be closer than it has any business being.
The pick: Tennessee 28 Arkansas State 21
Other SEC picks: Alabama over Georgia, Arkansas over Kentucky, Florida over Ole Miss, LSU over South Carolina, Auburn over New Mexico State, Mississippi State over Gardner Webb
Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Houston, Denver over Jacksonville, Philadelphia over Detroit, Pittsburgh over San Francisco
Last week: 7-4 (.636), Overall: 26-6 (.813)