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Opening win could be good omen for Titans

Yes, it’s one game in the books, in a 16-game regular season, but what really is the significance of starting out 1-0? Should fans be excited? Should teams take notice of a fast start?

Since 1978, when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious on Kickoff Weekend are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of an opening game. Of the 458 teams which won openers, 243 (53.1 %) went to the playoffs (142 won division titles). Of the 458 teams which lost openers, 102 (22.3 %) went to the playoffs (60 won division titles).

The trend held true in 2009, when 10 of the 12 playoff teams – Baltimore, Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia and San Diego – were victorious on Kickoff Weekend. 

When examining Tennessee, since they became the Titans in ’99, there is cause for tempered excitement when winning that first game of the season. In five of the six playoff seasons in Jeff Fisher's tenure, the Titans have started the year 1-0. Only in 2000 did Tennessee go 0-1 and make the postseason. Conversely, 2004 is the only time since being renamed the Titans that the team has started a season with a victory and failed to make the playoffs.

1999:  The season would be special for many reasons, but it all started with the inaugural game, and season opener, in what was then Adelphia Coliseum.  After trailing late, Al Del Greco would connect on the game winning field goal to preserve the 36-35 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Titans ended the season red-hot, winners of 7-of-8.  They would wind up finishing 13-3 in regular season.

And anyone who has ever followed this franchise knows what happened that year in the playoffs.  The Music City Miracle, the “Eddie George” game against the Colts, the three-peat against the Jags and, of course, the first-ever trip to the Super Bowl.

2000:  This season would be another good one for the Titans. Although, they lost their season opener at Buffalo 13-16, they finished the regular season 13-3, the league’s best record. They would win every stat in their playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens but one.  The scoreboard, a 24-10 loss. That year would be the only example where a Jeff Fisher team lost in week 1 but went on to the playoffs.

2002:  After a 7-9 campaign in 2001, the Titans would start off this season at home against Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the Eagles leading by 14 at the half, it would be time for the Tennessee defense to step up.  They did just that, and the Titans ended with 17 unanswered points and a 27-24 victory.  They would finish 11-5 that season, good enough for an AFC South division title.

The division round would place the Pittsburgh Steelers in Nashville.  Whether you were at the stadium or watching the game on television, most will always remember that game as the Music City Mulligan, where Joe Nedney made, missed and made again a winning field goal in overtime to beat the Steelers.

In case you were wondering, it was the game that Nedney pronounced to the world he should have won an Oscar for getting the “running into the kicker” call.  He would get a second chance to nail the game winning field goal.  Titans were victorious 34-31 in overtime.

The next week didn’t fare well out in Oakland.  The Raiders had their way in the AFC championship game, winning 41-24.

2003:  This year would allow the Titans to erase the painful memory of the ’02 title game, and allow them to exact revenge on the Oakland Raiders at home, at the beginning of the season.

In a bizarre game where Nedney would be injured and not return, punter Craig Hentrich would replace him and connect on three field goals leading the Titans to the 25-20 win. Afterwards, the team learned that Nedney would be lost for the season,  sending the Titans “fishing” for another kicker.  They caught Gary Anderson. Tennessee would win its final three games of the ‘03 season en route to a 12-4 record.

In the Wild Card round, Anderson, connected on a 46-yard FG, leading the way for a 20-17 victory against their much hated rival Baltimore Ravens.

The Divisional game in Foxboro would have wind chill temperatures well below zero, as the Patriots would prevail 17-14.  For all the spectacular catches Drew Bennett had in his career with the Titans, it was the one off his finger tips late in the game that most fans will always remember.

2007:  After a three-year drought from the playoffs, the Titans would begin the ‘07 season on the road against division rival Jacksonville.  With the game close, Vince Young would trot into the end zone from 2-yards out and secure a 13-10 victory.  They would finish up that season winning four of their last five and a 10-6 record.

Tennessee would enter the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and face a San Diego team that had beaten them in overtime late in the season in Nashville.  Their offense struggled mightily that day, as the Titans could only muster up two field-goals and a 17-6 loss to the Chargers.

2008:   The year would begin at home with a victory over division foe Jacksonville, 17-10.  Kerry Collins finished that game late after replacing an injured Vince Young.  Collins would be the starter the rest of the season. That began the onslaught of victories to come, as the Titans would get off to a 10-0 start before a loss to the Jets [with Brett Favre] at home. They would go on to finish with the league’s best record (13-3).

After earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Titans would square off with their nemesis Baltimore Ravens. After an early touchdown by rookie Chris Johnson, who would leave the game with an injury, Ravens’ Matt Stover connects on his second FG of the day giving them the lead.  Baltimore would stun the Titans again at home 13-10.

In the six playoff seasons under head coach Fisher (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2008), the Titans have won their opener five times (all but 2000).  Will the 2010 season be the sixth time?

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