When 32 souls are running about, and there's only enough air for 12 to breathe, it's inevitable that we're going to see 20 of them drop like flies, landing with a thud only heard when a team has collapsed among broken hopes and unreached expectations.
The best we can do here at the Football Nation Morgue is cut them open, probe around, and provide a sense of finality to the loved ones, those who may not fully understand why the ravages of time claimed their favorite team.
They can rest a little easier in knowing that, by early March, their team will be exhumed from their tombs, electroshocked back into consciousness, and given another (possible futile) stab at championship spoils.
But until that day comes, hand me that scalpel....
Subject: Tennessee Titans
Date of Death: December 9, 2012
Record at Time of Death: 4-9
Contributing Factors to Death:
1. Steamrolled by a Tough Schedule
As I'd pointed out in the Lions' autopsy, the schedule did them no favors. 8 of Detroit's 9 losses came against teams currently with winning records, while only beating one current winner (Seattle).
That's a friendly way of saying, "You can't beat good teams, thus you're not a good team yourself."
Tennessee's had the same problem, beating just one team currently doing fine for themselves (Pittsburgh), while losing 7 games to teams vying for the Lombardi Trophy, or at least a playoff spot.
Let's list em off: lost 34-13 to New England, 38-14 and 24-10 to Houston, 19-13 and 27-23 to Indianapolis, 30-7 to Minnesota, and 51-20 to Chicago.
Save for the Colts comeback efforts, Tennessee got slaughtered in these games. Detroit at least lost close, and has the solace of knowing they could have won a handful of those tough losses.
But Tennessee stood up to the league's upper tier and got KO'ed time and time again.
They also lost to Jacksonville and San Diego, but let's not rub salt in these open wounds.
2. Lack of Quarterback Identity
When Matthew Hasselbeck was beaten out for the starting job by sophomore Jake Locker, it didn't seem to be that big of a deal. Hasselbeck's pushing 40, and 7 years removed from his closest shot at a title. You figure he'd move into a mentor role for Locker, and help develop a promising talent.
Locker, however, has had issues with his non-throwing shoulder, resulting in Hasselbeck starting 5 games in his place.
The old man would go 2-3 running the ship, and put up a respectable, if pedestrian, 81.0 QB rating (7 TD, 5 INT). He also led the Titans to the win over Pittsburgh, a small token of revenge for Super Bowl XLV.
Locker, however, is 2-6. One of those wins was against Detroit, whose defense couldn't stop a snail from crossing the street, let alone multiple scoring drives. The other win was a surprising 37-3 rout of the Dolphins, though Locker was a measly 9-21 passing in that game.
Over his last 3 starts, all losses to division rivals, Locker's thrown 3 touchdowns and 7 picks.
Combined, Locker and Hasselbeck have a passer rating of 78.5, the ninth worst for a team in the league.
3. Opposing Quarterbacks Feast Upon Them
Surely, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, and maybe even Chris Johnson sit on the sidelines and watch what opponents can do to their defense and say, "maybe the grass is greener elsewhere."
Opponents of the Titans enjoy a collective 97.4 passer rating against them, the fourth best rating in the NFL.
Although the Titans defense averages roughly an interception a game, opponents average 263.5 yards and 2 touchdowns against them each week.
8 individual opponents have had passer ratings of over 100.0 against the Titans. You'd expect to see the likes of Tom Brady (117.1), Philip Rivers (119.8), Matt Schaub (115.5), and Matthew Stafford (102.2). Even Jay Cutler (138.1).
But how are these for some unlikely achievers: Chad Henne (108.0), Ryan Fitzpatrick (109.8), and even Shaun Hill (157.9). Hill played in relief of an injured Stafford in Week 3, and nearly won the game on 10 of 13 passing, for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Opponents average 29.7 PPG against Tennessee, the second highest league average. Think they miss Cortland Finnegan yet?
For other autopsies (Eagles, Chiefs, Lions, and others), click here