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Preseason power rankings: No. 5

Hey, who had the NFL’s best record in 2008? Yeah, the Titans. 13-3. Forgot about that?

It’s OK, lots of people did. That’s because the taste they left the football-watching masses with was a sour one. They had three turnovers and 12 penalties for 189 yards in a 13-10 upset loss at home to the Ravens in the Wild Card round.

An offseason of wouldas and couldas quickly melted into an offseason of worrying about how the team would replace defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth who chased the money to Washington.

But lost in the wouldas and the worrying is the fact that this team returns 20 of 22 starters from last year. Of course they’ll miss Haynesworth, but they’ve played without him frequently. He participated in about half of all defensive snaps last season and the Titans still allowed just 234 points (2nd in the league) and finished +14 in turnover differential.

The Titans try to come at you in waves along the defensive front, constantly shuffling players in to keep them fresh. How well ends Kyle Vanden Bosch (31) and Jevon Kearse (33 - that happened fast!) stand up throughout the season is a major storyline to watch. Both guys are terrific. Both guys tend to get nicked up.

The Titans have two top-flight guys in their secondary -- corner Cortland Finnegan and safety Michael Griffin. In the linebacking group, Keith Bulluck and David Thornton are the leaders at the outside linebacker spots.

Bulluck, like Vanden Bosch and Kearse, are getting up there. If the older guys stay healthy, it’s still a top-five defense. Chuck Cecil replaced Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator so that’s another area to watch in terms of any kind of change in style.

Offensively, the line is what makes this team capable of playing a ball-control, wear-you-down style. They are so good up front, they can make a superstar of a slightly-built whippet like Chris Johnson (1,228 yards last year) and help Kerry Collins feel safe and secure in his twilight years.

Bo Scaife is a better-than-average tight end, LenDale White had 15 touchdowns last year and, since laying off the Patron tequila, says he lost a ton of weight and feels positively spry.

Always solid on special teams and very well-coached, the Titans don’t get a lot of respect. But they ought to.

Key player: Johnson. At 5-11, 195 lean pounds, can he handle a bigger load than he got last year (251 carries)? The Titans are sure to try and find out because they love to grind. They need him healthy.

Rookie to watch: Kenny Britt. The wide receiver from Rutgers taken in the first round is being dropped right into the cauldron of competition (too much NFL Films for me) with veteran free agent acquisition Nate Washington dealing with a bad wheel early.

Best veteran acquisition: Nate Washington. The Titans have been desperately seeking downfield threats for what seems like forever. So they plucked the former Steelers No. 3 guy who was Pittsburgh’s best field stretcher.

Key game: Week Thirteen at Indianapolis. This is the Titans final division game of the season -- hard to believe -- and it’s bound to be a big one.

PFT’s Power Rankings:

5. Tennessee Titans
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Dallas Cowboys
12. New Orleans Saints
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. Chicago Bears
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Miami Dolphins
18. Houston Texans
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
20. Cincinnati Bengals
21. Buffalo Bills
22. Washington Redskins
23. New York Jets
24. Seattle Seahawks
25. San Francisco 49ers
26. Denver Broncos
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Cleveland Browns
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
30. Oakland Raiders
31. St. Louis Rams
32. Detroit Lions