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In praise of the Titans

The Baltimore Sun

It's not that I thought the Tennessee Titans would stink or anything. After all, they went 10-6 and made the playoffs last season. They boast one of the best defensive front sevens in football. And they have one of the NFL's most underappreciated coaches in Jeff Fisher.

It's just that I figured the Titans would play mediocre football unless Vince Young took a serious step forward at quarterback. If you had told me that Young would be out with physical and psychological problems after Week 1, I would probably have predicted doom.

Instead, the Titans, with Kerry Collins at the helm, have been the most dominant team in the AFC through four weeks. Given that context, I have to say they're the biggest surprise in the conference.

Now, any praise of the Titans has to come with some caveats. They've played three of four games at home and have beaten teams with a combined 3-12 record. It's entirely possible that their so-so offense will look hapless against the aggressive Ravens defense this weekend.

There's also plenty to like, however. Defensive tackles Tony Brown and Albert Haynesworth are playing as well as any pair in the league. Speedy rookie Chris Johnson is a surprising threat out of the backfield, averaging 5 yards a carry. And Collins has played efficiently if unspectacularly.

Fisher, to his credit, has quelled the potential quarterback controversy by saying the returning Young won't start as long as the team is playing well.

If the Indianapolis Colts (the biggest negative surprise in the AFC) right their ship, the Titans' fast start might seem a distant memory by December. But for now, they sit ahead of the Ravens and Buffalo Bills as the conference's most unexpected success.

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