Tennessee Titans Playoff Hopes in Jeopardy
The 2017 Titans season can be described in one word: meh. This team seems to be good enough just to sneak by most weeks but does so while not impressing anyone. The running game, which ranks 13th in yards per game and 12th in yards per carry this season was supposed to be dominant coming into this season but it has not been as good as it was in 2016.
DeMarco Murray seems to have lost a step while Derrick Henry still runs to get to the outside a lot, as if he’s still at Alabama. Henry needs to figure out he’s not faster than the guys on defense now. Marcus Mariota has not helped with his spotty accuracy and the play calling shoulders its share of blame for not getting guys like Taywan Taylor more involved in the passing game. This could have been a very talented offense instead it’s just meh.
This season the Titans have defeated the 3-11 Indianapolis Colts twice, beat the Deshaun Watson-less Houston Texans, barely beat the winless Cleveland Browns and hapless Cincinnati Bengals and pulled out a win over the also mediocre Baltimore Ravens, whom are one of the direct competitors with Tennessee for an AFC wild card spot. Somehow the Titans managed to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks (before their defense was ravaged by injuries) but those wins from weeks two and three seem like an eternity ago.
To win the division, the Titans have to win their remaining two games and get help from Sunday’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. Tennessee needs them to beat the Jaguars on Sunday while the Titans defeat the Los Angeles Rams. That would make Week 17 a winner take all showdown in Nashville for the division title.
The Bad News
The Titans pass defense is 25th in the league in yards allowed. They are also in the lower half of the league in terms of touchdowns against and interceptions. Kevin Byard has six of the team’s ten on the season (yet was not good enough for a Pro Bowl selection). The secondary was the problem last year and has not been fixed this season. Despite this, they rank a respectable 13th in YPA against and 16th in passer rating against. The additions of Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien in the off-season have not yielded the results fans hoped for.
This subpar pass defense will face off against Jared Goff and the surprisingly good Rams offense. Under Sean McVay the Rams are scoring over 30 points per game. This season Goff has looked like he was worthy of being the number one overall pick. The Rams passing game now ranks 12th in yards per game through the air and Goff will be licking his chops against this Titans secondary. But if Tennessee plays nickel most of the game then Todd Gurley will tear them up.
If the Jaguars have clinched the division before Week 17, they should still be fighting for playoff positioning. It is possible if both the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers win and the Jaguars lose then they could be locked into the three seed and thus not have anything to play for in Week 17 in Nashville. But that is unlikely.
The Good News
The good news for the Titans is their remaining games are at home. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills go on the road to face the Patriots this week and then go to South Beach to face the Miami Dolphins to close the regular season. The other teams in contention are the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers. The Ravens face the Colts and Bengals and Baltimore should win both games. The Chargers, a game back at 7-7, play at the New York Jets and host the Oakland Raiders to finish the season. The Chargers chances of winning both games are fairly high, which means it could come down to tiebreakers between the Chargers, Titans and Bills.
There are plenty of tiebreakers here that seem pointless to go over right now. But the Titans could find themselves on the outside looking in very easily. Baltimore looks to have the inside track on the five seed and it could be a really tough fight for the final spot. The good news is that the Titans control their own destiny, win and they are in. But against two surprising 10-4 teams, that’s much easier said than done. However, at this point of the season it’s the most fans can ask for. If the Titans want to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008 it’s completely in their hands. No excuses, especially with all the talent they have.