If the Tennessee Titans’ 2018 season was a movie, it’d have too many plot twists for the average viewer to handle.
Here’s the expectation of Scene 15 — On Saturday, the Tennessee Titans should beat the Washington Redskins on Saturday.
The football gods have placed every favor in Tennessee’s hands — home-field advantage (the Titans are 5-1 in Nissan Stadium this season), health at quarterback (the Redskins are down to their fourth option), and the NFL’s resident earth scorcher, Derrick Henry.
A win boosts Tennessee’s record to 9-6. Its playoff hopes would remain alive heading into Week 17’s pivotal matchup against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
Of course, the football gods aren’t handing a victory on a silver platter. Rather, Saturday’s matchup against the broken-down, still-alive-but-barely-breathing Redskins is a test of the Titans’ biggest weakness — trustworthiness.
As previously mentioned, Tennessee should beat Washington, but if the Titans were to follow the script of their 2018 season, Tennessee actually shouldn’t beat Washington.
That’s a fairly pessimistic view of the situation, but it’s 100 percent accurate. The Tennessee Titans are the NFL’s most untrustworthy team for a reason. As soon as a string of solid performances are pieced together, Tennessee has shown a tendency to drop a few duds.
Remember the euphoric, comeback win over the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles? The Titans exited that game 3-1 heading into October, and promptly lost three consecutive games, including back-to-back horror shows against Buffalo and Baltimore.
Tennessee managed to regroup after a bye week. On Monday Night Football, they dominated the Dallas Cowboys, 28-14. The following week, they outclassed the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots, 34-10.
In a move that can only be described as “on brand,” the Titans lost to the Colts and Texans the next two weeks by a combined score of 72-27.
Tennessee is 3-0 since, with wins over both of New York’s finest and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not exactly murder’s row, but wins nevertheless.
The completely random and unfathomable surge of Derrick Henry is the primary factor behind the Titans’ recent success. The former Heisman Trophy winner only rushed for 474 yards during the first three-quarters of the season. Against the Jaguars and Giants, Henry accumulated 408 yards and six touchdowns on 8.2 yards per carry. That’s more yards rushing than quarterback Marcus Mariota has yards passing (250) in the same span.
Expecting Henry to maintain such a pace would be asinine. However, the formula is clear — with a quarterback who often struggles to throw for more than 200 yards, riding your workhorse back is the way to go.
However, this goes back to the essence of the issue — can Tennessee be trusted to play to their strengths and win a big game?
Winning on Saturday won’t fully answer that question. In fact, should the Baltimore Ravens win their final two games, it doesn’t matter what the Titans do. Despite a potential 10-6 record (which would be the most wins for the franchise since 2008), Tennessee won’t make an appearance in the postseason.
What a victory over a team that’s a shell of its former self accomplishes is the idea that the Titans are capable of consistently winning games they should win. The Jets, Jaguars, and Giants (Tennessee’s previous three opponents) have a combined record of 13-29. The Redskins are 7-7, but 1-5 over their past six games.
Victories over low-quality opponents won’t catapult the Titans up the power rankings, but there’s value in winning games against teams that range from mediocre to bad. If Tennessee had beaten every team on its schedule that currently has a .500 record or lower, they’d be 10-4.
Alas, the script to the Titans’ 2018 season hasn’t played out that way. In the NFL, always expect the unexpected, but maybe, just maybe, Tennessee has learned how to live up to its own expectations.