It’s week five of the 2007 NFL season and the Tennessee Titans have a must-win game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. No playoff spot is at stake. Jeff Fisher’s job is secure. Fan support is strong. Nevertheless, the Titans have to win this game on Sunday, and here’s why.
The Titans have been a surprise team this season, posting an unexpected 2-1 record. Any reasonable person could have expected Tennessee to go 1-2 or 0-3 versus the Jaguars, Colts and Saints. Granted, no one expected New Orleans to completely lose its mojo from 2006. Even so, the Titans fell three points short of being undefeated after three games and many sports pundits rank Tennessee as one of the NFL’s top ten teams.
It would be easy for the Titans to relax against Atlanta. Vince Young is fresh off a two-touchdown performance on Monday Night Football and a non-flattering appearance on 60 Minutes (well, they say all publicity is good publicity). Keith Bulluck made a bid to become a household name and played up to the level of his cool nickname, Mr. Monday Night.
And the Falcons are coming to town. Atlanta is doing its best to recover from one of the worst offseasons in sports history. The former face of its franchise faces five years in the joint.
The Falcons new quarterback? A man who was the third overall pick in the 2002 draft who is now playing for his third NFL team.
Joey Harrington doesn’t have a cool nickname like Mr. Monday Night. He’s known as the Piano Man. He’s also known as Joey Blue Skies, because, as his critics say, no matter how badly things are crashing down around him, Joey Harrington will always have a smile on his face.
Which makes him the perfect quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.
Harrington is 2-0 after Byron Leftwich signed a two-year contract with the Falcons. A two-year deal says you may not ever become the face of our franchise, but we’re not too confident in the guy currently under center. It’s safe to say that Leftwich’s presence has a little to do with Harrington’s inspired play over the past two weeks.
Harrington and the Atlanta Falcons have nothing to lose. Every victory this team wins keeps them out of an emotional cellar. The Titans, however, are in danger of slipping to the level of the team which lost to Atlanta last week, the Houston Texans, a team so savvy it chose a defensive lineman in the 2006 NFL draft instead of a Houston-born heroic quarterback or a running back who might be the second coming of Gale Sayers.
Why must Tennessee win on Sunday? Because they’re better than the Falcons, and they’re better than the Houston Texans.