The worst is behind the Tennessee Titans, who've endured their salary cap problems, plugged in young players and started the long road to recovery. At Alltel Stadium on Sunday, the Jaguars will get a look at their old rival in a new way.
"Obviously, the difficult times are behind us," Titans coach Jeff Fisher told reporters earlier this week. "We were able to take some steps this offseason and sign some key free agents. We were able to help some spots on the roster and we're looking forward to being very aggressive this coming offseason and obviously continue to upgrade the roster."
The old Titans are gone. They're in Baltimore now. Instead of Steve McNair at quarterback, it's rookie Vince Young, who is the centerpiece of the Titans' future.
"We expected to play Vince this year and Vince earned and deserved the right to play a lot earlier than I think we had anticipated because of what he was able to do from the time he got out of the limo after the draft. He really has improved. His numbers aren't overwhelming but he handles the game well, he manages the game well and he's a very good practice player. He's a tremendous athlete that gives you an opportunity to make plays with his arm and his legs," Fisher said of Young, the third pick of this year's draft.
Young's numbers include a 47.4 completion percentage and a 60.5 passer rating that's at the bottom of the league, but since becoming the Titans' starting quarterback in the fourth game of the season, he has led the Titans to their only wins.
"I am just having a good time playing with some great guys and we are getting it turned around a little bit," Young said.
A year ago, Young was the toast of the college football world, leading Texas to the national championship. Now, he's the toast of Nashville, where the Titans are en route to their third consecutive losing season.
When will it end? Young's development will go a long way toward answering that question.
"What Vince can do in the pocket is he can feel pressure without having to remove his eyes from downfield. He doesn't have to look at the pressure and that's something that you can't teach a young quarterback," Fisher said.
Young has run 25 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He was drafted for his scrambling ability as much or more than for his passing skills, which were expected to need major refinement.
"He's going to become a good passer," Fisher added. "He's an accurate passer. He's especially accurate on the run and we've almost asked him to go the other way and that's to trust his legs and use his legs when given the opportunity. Yeah, I think he has all of the tools to be the passer that you need to be successful, but also his legs can do some exceptional things, as we saw last weekend."
Young's legs are buying him time to develop his passing skills, but running back Travis Henry's legs are providing most of the assistance. Henry has a team-leading 412 yards rushing and the Titans are 12th in the league in run-offense.
In most other ways, the Titans are at the bottom of the league. They're 29th in passing, 31st against the run and last in the league in total defense.
"I think some stats are misleading. I don't think we're the worst defensive team in the NFL. I guess we'll have to wait and see this weekend," Fisher said.
While the eyes of Titans fans will be on Young, Jaguars fans will be focused on David Garrard, who will get his second consecutive start at quarterback. Byron Leftwich (ankle) is "questionable" on the Jaguars injury report for the second consecutive week. He was downgraded from "probable" on Thursday, which further fueled suspicion that a permanent change is being attempted at the position.
"I don't have any reason to doubt that," Leftwich said when asked if he believes he is still the team's official starting quarterback. "Fortunately for us, we have a guy like David who can come in and win football games for us. I feel good about it. It wasn't a situation where I was struggling all year."
The Jaguars need a win to keep pace in the playoff race. This will be the first of three consecutive home games that could propel the Jaguars into the postseason for the second consecutive year.