Buying: Jake Locker
Jake Locker might be in his final season with the Tennessee Titans. Many columns have been written about his disappointing tenure in Nashville, after being taken No. 8 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Titans already declined his fifth year option on his rookie contract, which means this year is make-it-or-break-it. Given the track record of injuries and a career 8-11 record, it's easy for Titans fans (and lazy writers) to simply call for a turn of the proverbial page -- maybe to Zach Mettenberger or the next drafted savior-in-waiting.
But last year showed signs of life and the types of numbers (and results) the Titans have been waiting for. Yes, it was another injury riddled season for Locker, but the season's first quarter showed he can lead this team to victory. Through four games, the Titans had a 3-1 record and Locker was 69 of 111 (62.1 percent) for 721 yards and six touchdowns. Even better, he had zero interceptions and had rushed for another 100 yards. He minimized mistakes, looked in control, and moved the chains.
Then Locker goes down. The Chiefs marched into Nashville in Week 5, Locker's first week on the sidelines, and KC rolls to victory over Ryan Fitzpatrick and company.
Locker might not lead the Titans to victory here. He might not even last a full season. But the talent is there and, at some point, he could put it all together. It's not like the Chiefs don't have the same sort of leader who disappointed during his rookie deal only to earn much more as a veteran for another team. Locker will succeed in this league. He's shown just enough for me to believe.
Buying: Chiefs impact players
The Chiefs have holes on the roster. They are lacking depth in key places. But there's simply too many playmakers on both sides of the ball to lose games like this season opener at Arrowhead. The coaching staff has now enjoyed a full year of seeing exactly what they have on hand. The Chiefs had 8 players voted to the Pro Bowl last year, and the core remains intact.
When it comes to facing another team with just as many impact players, the Chiefs could really be in trouble. Offensive line woes, lack of a deep offensive threat and a thin secondary could spell trouble against the elite teams in the league. But the Titans are no such team and could use a few impact players of their own.
Selling: Titans pass rush
The Titans are switching to a 3-4 front this season, which means the learning curve will be steep in Week 1. The good news is that they have a solid front that resembles the Chiefs in ways, with a dynamic young force who can generate a pass rush in the newly-extended Jurrell Casey and solid run stuffers like Ropati Pitoitua in the rotation. Unfortunately, the edge rush is not there at all, and the Titans have hardly addressed the need.
Casey was the team's leader in sacks last season, but it remains to be seen how well he will adjust in a 3-4 base on the outside. However, the team says they're committed to letting Casey attack the quarterback. How well Eric Fisher handles Casey will set the tone for the Titans pass rush.
Derrick Morgan is the leading edge rusher from last season with six sacks in 2013. Kamerion Wimbley also returns on the other side. Akeem Ayers and veteran FA signing Shaun Phillips are also in play, but it's a unit with a limited ceiling. The Chiefs young o-line could make life easier for this bunch, but if the Chiefs scheme well enough and Fisher does his job, Alex Smith should have time on Sunday to make the plays he needs.