The Tennessee Titans finished 9-7 from 2016 to 2019 and often found themselves in week 17 play-in games.
So, logically you’d think a better record would have them as a lock for the playoffs by week 17, correct? Wrong. The Titans are currently one win better, but the entire AFC decided it was also their year.
Thus, making the AFC crowded and making Week 17 a pivotal week despite being FIVE games above .500.
If you haven’t committed it to memory just yet, below are scenarios for #Titans clinching playoff berth/AFC South this wkd.:
–As far as likely opponents, if Titans, Buffalo, Balt., Indy win as favored on Sun., Titans will host Ravens in first round. pic.twitter.com/HhKXHkoxNw
— John Glennon (@glennonsports) December 29, 2020
A Titans win rides them off into the sunset with an 11-5 record and an AFC South crown. A loss could see them miss the playoffs entirely, although unlikely.
Let’s take a look at their opponent and what needs to happen for the Titans to win.
THE FORTUNES ARE CHANGING
There was a point in time when the Tennessee Titans found it challenging to defeat the Texans. From 2014 to 2017, the Titans only had one win versus Houston, and it came on January 1st, 2017.
Now, the tides are slowly starting to shift. Tennessee has won four of the last six meetings and currently own a two-game winning streak over Houston. The previous meeting ended in an overtime thriller that saw Derrick Henry run it in for the win.
The Titans lead the all-time series 20-17 versus Houston, dating back to Houston’s arrival in the NFL in 2002.
The Titans are initially from Houston, but going back “home” hasn’t exactly been welcoming. They only have two wins in Houston since 2010. One came in 2012, and the next one didn’t come until 2019.
These two teams are currently heading in different directions, so the fortunes are starting to change all across the board. A Titans victory would give them two consecutive wins in Houston for the first time since 2006 and 2007.
TALE OF TWO TEAMS
This is a game in which the Titans need a win, and their rivals will love nothing more than to spoil their season.
However, the Titans are by far the better team on paper. Houston is bringing in the 17th ranked offense, and 30th ranked defense.
They also have the 31st ranked rushing defense matching up against the NFL’s leading rusher Derrick Henry.
The best asset Houston has is their passing offense, which is ranked 4th in the NFL. Going up against Tennessee’s defense is the one thing that will keep them in this game.
Tennessee’s defense is 28th in the league against the pass. And 29th in the league overall. We can expect Deshaun Watson to have quite a day on Sunday, just like he did in week six.
But the Titans have the offense to keep up. They are 5th overall and the 3rd best in the NFL in points per game (30.0). We can expect another shootout between these two teams.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Tennessee Titans have the edge. Yet as we saw in Cincinnati earlier in the season, being the better team on paper means nothing.
Here are some keys to coming up with a win in Houston.
KEY ONE: BEND BUT DON’T BREAK
We know the defense is terrible. It’s week 17, and we have to come to terms with it. But, your best chance to win in this game will be to bend but not break.
The Titans have one of the worst red-zone defenses in the NFL. And it’s quite likely that Deshaun Watson will find himself there a lot. If that’s the case, it will be critical for Tennessee to hold them to field goals.
KEY TWO: GET BALL FIRST, SCORE EARLY
I know the popular thing to do is defer to the second half. But, if the Titans have a chance to get the ball first, jump on it.
You’re at a point where you should trust the offense more than the defense.
Your defense is facing a great quarterback. Your great offense is facing a very exploitable defense. Get the ball first and get ahead.
KEY THREE: FEED THE KING
This one is a given every single week. Feed Derrick Henry. This should be self-explanatory because when Henry is going, the entire offense flows. Also, 2,000 yards, anyone?
This should be a fun game, but it will be nerve-wracking for fans who want the Titans to make the playoffs. Unless the Titans beat themselves, they should win this one and find themselves AFC South Champions.
Featured image by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports