Few matchups have been as one-sided as Tennessee versus Tampa Bay. Overall, the Titans have won nine of their 11 meetings. But that's just the beginning of the story.
As the Houston Oilers, the Titans went 4-1 against the Bucs including a 20-0 shutout in their first meeting. They won their last two games as the Oilers and continued the streak as the Titans winning three more for a total of five straight games from 1989 to 2003.
The Buccaneers snapped the streak edging the Titans 13-10 in 2007 but Tennessee rebounded and won the next two including their last meeting in 2015. This was a high-profile game where the two franchise's prized quarterbacks duelled. Mariota came out on top throwing for four touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating as the Titans blew out Tampa 42-14.
With the Titans on the upswing and the Buccaneers look like a rebuilding franchise, the streak should continue for Tennessee. Although preseason meetings could be an entirely different story if their team makeup continues for the next few seasons, the Titans remain superior.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Recent History
As a relatively young franchise, the Bucs haven't experienced much success outside their lone Super Bowl appearance and victory in 2002. That was a dream season for Tampa as they went 12-4 and easily defeated the opposition. But there was no long-term success for the team as they quickly retrogressed to their losing ways.
Since that historic season, Tampa Bay has only managed five winning seasons, two playoff appearances, and no playoff victories. The franchise became worse after Jon Gruden's departure in 2008 recording at least four seasons with four wins or less. Four head coaches later and the Bucs are still terrible.
The Bucs' brass could soon grow tired of Winston who has three times the bad publicity as he has winning seasons. If the troubled quarterback can't show significant improvements in 2018, ownership will start cleaning house beginning with Koetter and his coaches.
Tennessee Titans Recent History
The Titans began as the Houston Oilers in 1960 but relocated in 1997. They officially became the "Titans" in 1999 and coincidentally hit their peak as a franchise, losing in Super Bowl XXXIV to the powerhouse St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately for Tennessee, they wouldn't come close to repeating this feat.
They would win a few more division titles and make a few more playoff appearances but won't get further than the divisional round. In 2010, long-time head coach Jeff Fisher resigned and it would get worse as the Totams would continue missing the playoffs and have a losing record from 2012 to 2015.
They finished tied for the worst record in 2014 with only two wins. It allowed them to take Mariota with the second pick which would be a turning point for the franchise as they returned to the playoffs in 2017 and finished with consecutive winning records for the first time since 2007 to 2008.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook
The Bucs' outlook appeared to be getting brighter after finishing 9-7 in 2016, their first winning season since 2010. But they simply continued the HBO's Hard Knocks curse by becoming worse and finishing 5-11 extending their playoff drought to ten seasons.
Winston is suspended for the first few games due to another off-field scandal. Fortunately, Ryan Fitzpatrick is more than a capable backup. They still have plenty of talent on offence. They upgraded their offensive line and added depth to their back-seven. Tampa Bay isn't a complete wasteland.
But 2018 is already looking like a lost season especially with how tough the NFC South is. Koetter is on a short leash and is the favourite to be the first coach to be fired in the season. The Bucs have solid pieces and may simply need a different voice to guide the desultory ship.
Tennessee Titans Outlook
Tennessee is a rising contender in the AFC. They may still meet a few bumps along the way, such as having to adjust to a new offensive coordinator and dealing with ever-improving division rivals, but they will eventually get there.
The Titans got to the divisional round despite injuries and coaching issues and they only got better in the offseason. They've brought in top free agents like Patriots Dion Lewis (RB) and Malcolm Butler (CB) and used the draft to bolster the defence with blue-chip prospects like Rashaan Evans (LB) and Harold Landry (DE).
It all depends on whether Mariota and the offence can adjust to new coach Matt LaFleur, who turned the Rams into one of the most potent offences in 2017. They have a tougher schedule in 2018 and a slow start could doom them but the future is bright for this franchise.
If these two met in the middle of the regular season, the Titans might just run over the Buccaneers. But this is the second week of preseason and the Buccaneers hold the edge due to the Titans offence likely still adapting to a new offence.
But based on talent alone, the Titans will blow the Bucs away. They have a better offence with Mariota as a more reliable quarterback. Their receivers don't have the same name value as the Bucs' combo of DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans but are more functional. And Lewis and Derrick Henry are significantly better than whatever Tampa has on the ground.
Tennessee's passing defence was mediocre but they bolstered their pass rush and secondary. Tampa Bay also upgraded their front but they were the worst-ranked defence last season.
Blaine Gabbert is a solid backup quarterback for Tennessee and will go against Ryan Griffin, a third-stringer for the Bucs due to Winston's suspension. The Titans have the edge here but not by much since he's still Gabbert. Tampa Bay should still be readier and will win.