The AFC South was former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's playground for 14 seasons, and the Tennessee Titans almost capitalized on his absence in 2011. Instead they saw the division go to the Houston Texans by a difference of one victory.
The Titans are at a crossroads as an organization.
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker will get the start and could play the entire first half. In their first preseason game, former Super Bowl starter Matt Hasselbeck aired out two interceptions while Locker went 7-13 for 80 yards in a 27-17 loss at Seattle. How this competition plays out could have ramifications far beyond the 2012 season.
Speedy Tennessee running back Chris Johnson will get more touches as he was less than underwhelming against Seattle, with five carries for only eight yards. Tennessee turned to fourth-year back Darius Reynaud, who missed all of the 2011 season, and he churned out a 21-yard scamper for a touchdown. Like Hasselbeck, Johnson's job is not safe by any means.
Then there are the Bucs, who ended last season on a 10-game losing streak that guided head coach Raheem Morris right out of the building. New coach Greg Schiano took over during the offseason after raising Rutgers to respectability, and now looks to do the same for a Tampa franchise that has not smelled the postseason since 2007.
Against Miami in their first preseason game, the running committee of veteran LeGarrette Blount and 2012 first round pick Doug Martin split carries and both scored a touchdown. The team earned a 20-7 victory and weren't even at full strength.
Free agent tight end Dallas Clark sat out and so did first round pick Mark Barron, who was brought on to spur a secondary that gave up 238.4 yards a game last season. Expect both to log major reps.
Tennessee 21 Tampa 10