August 11, 2012

NFL Preseason: Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks

I don’t care much for the preseason. There, got it out of my system. I used to care, a lot.

The NFL brought the preseason to Wembley Stadium back in August 1986. Actually, that’s not entirely correct. They brought William Perry to Wembley Stadium in August 1986 under the guise of the Chicago Bears vs. the Dallas Cowboys, but we were a na├»ve bunch back then and the league could have sold us anything.
Turns out they did and the Emperor’s New Clothes soon became apparent as attendances dwindled in the ensuing years before, eventually, the whole plan was scrapped. Those of us who stuck around thereafter needed meaningful football.
The more eagle-eyed of you out there will perhaps note that I’ve contradicted myself somewhat as I’ve previously entrenched myself (firmly) in the preseason camp, but I didn’t say I have no time for the preseason at all, just that I don’t care much for it. However, this Saturday, I’ll allow myself to care a little more than usual due to the homecoming of a couple of Seahawk titans along with a local titan; I’ll throw in Jordan Babineaux, too.
With almost every bookmaker imaginable, the Seattle Seahawks are listed as 3 point favourites over the visiting Tennessee Titans, a figure akin to throwing ten coins into the air and seeing which one lands first. Handicapping can be challenging at the best of times, but the first game of the preseason? Pick your poison, fellas, and brace yourselves.
A fact significantly forgotten is just how close the Titans came to clinching a wild card berth last season, finishing with the same 9-7 record as Cincinnati while also conceding fewer points than the Bengals. This, without the services of Kenny Britt for 13 games and Chris Johnson for what must have seemed like 13 games at many points last year for those of a Titan persuasion.
Alas, we’re deprived of seeing Britt on Saturday and fans of all teams will likely be rowing the same boat the longer his list of indiscretions continues, including now ranting against his own employers. This man clearly has too much time on his hands, but with (most of?) us being rapt by T.O. at present, I’m not about to castigate a talented receiver with a behaviour issue.
With Britt sidelined, Kendall Wright’s star shines brighter, but just how willing Mike Munchak is to give him significant playing time against Seattle’s starting secondary remains to be seen. I’m as keen as any Seahawks fan to see this unit’s progress, not a sentiment Wright shares right now.
*As I write, it’s still unclear which one of Tennessee’s North West idols will start at quarterback, suffice to say that the coaches surely lean towards Jake Locker getting the nod in Week 1 of the regular season, so look for him to start on Saturday with Matt Hasselbeck sharing the duties and Rusty Smith picking up the pieces late on.
Britt’s wobble and a brutal opening four games aside, these are exciting times for the Titans and if Locker manages to survive the Patriots, Chargers, Lions and Texans without being benched, then we know Matt will be the gentleman he always has been and step aside graciously.
No such gentlemanly conduct exists on Seattle’s side of the ball as the three-way QB competition begins in earnest. Matt Flynn’s been promised the first half and Russell Wilson the second, a decision that’s raised a few eyebrows league wide, but I don’t see why. Tarvaris Jackson is yesterday’s news and, while Flynn’s performance intrigues me, am I the only one slightly enchanted at the prospect of what Wilson offers?
If Terrell Owens is saying all the right things at the moment (I know it’ll never last), then Titans running back Chris Johnson deserves even greater credit. He speaks of accepting that offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is a pass first guy (even sans Britt) and intimates at taking one for the team for the greater good. CJ1.047K still harbours dreams of being the first player to rush for 2,000 yards twice in a career, but there’s little to no chance of that with Palmer calling the plays. No, instead, he’ll look to quieten his detractors, but he’ll see significantly less playing time on Saturday than either Javon Ringer or Jamie Harper.
We all held our collective breath when news filtered through of Marshawn Lynch’s recent arrest for DUI. Lynch wasn’t afforded the same luxury upon being apprehended, but it never ceases to amaze me how one man’s troubles in the NFL can quickly fade from the public consciousness due to the slew of other idiot players doing exactly the same, or worse. I’m not ecstatic at Lynch’s transgression but, by the same token, don’t want to see him suspended. These are skewed principles that sicken me, if I’m honest with myself, and if blood is thicker than water, then fanatical support is thicker than a sound upbringing.
Lynch and Robert Turbin have me licking my chops at the prospect of a weary defense being pounded into submission all season long by the Seahawks and should this be a regular season game, Tennessee’s 24th ranked rushing defense (from 2011) would hold no fear, particularly as they appear to have done positively nothing to shore things up.
Much like Tarvaris Jackson, wheeling out Leon Washington this Saturday serves little purpose and the buzz will be created when Turbin has the ball in his hands. Did I write earlier that these are exciting times for the Titans? I’d much rather be in our position, on both sides of the ball.
Being on here to advise which team is worthy of your hard earned, logic tells me to bet on the team being offered the points in Week 1 of the preseason, which makes Tennessee +3 points a very good thing. However, and I can barely believe I’m saying this, my heart is begging me to overrule...and I’m going to listen to it.
I blame it on being caught up in a tidal wave of patriotism here in London as Team GB thrills us on a daily basis, so I plan to make this my sole sentimental pick of the season.
Seahawks, it’s over to you. And so say all of us.
*Hasselbeck has been named the starting quarterback for Tennessee.

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