After Week 6, nobody thought the Titans stood a chance to reach the playoffs. 11 weeks later, the Titans have gone 7-3 since and are the sixth seed in the AFC. Tennessee has also had one of the best offenses in the league since that point. Some of that success can be attributed to the change at the quarterback position. Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota and has led the NFL in passer rating in his 10 starts. With him at the helm, the Titans will be dangerous not only this weekend in New England but throughout the postseason.
The Titans Triplets
Along with Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown have erupted over this final ten-game stretch. Henry clinched the rushing title with a 53-yard run against the Texans in Sunday’s season finale and Brown may have locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year with another monster day.
How long has it been since the Titans had a legitimate #1 wide receiver? There definitely hasn’t been one in the last decade, despite spending first-round picks on Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Corey Davis. Brown has emerged as a top-tier weapon on the outside and expect him to draw Stephon Gilmore all night on Saturday.
Henry will be the key to the Titans’ run in the playoffs. In January, after a long season and in freezing temperatures, who is going to want to tackle a running back who outsizes the average NFL linebacker and typically is one of the faster players on the field? Almost nobody is the correct answer. If Henry continues to be dominant, Tennessee will be a tough out.
The Supporting Cast
Although the three stars get most of the attention, the Titans have ample weapons outside of the ‘Triplets.’ At wide receiver, Davis continues to be a solid starter opposite Brown. Although he hasn’t lived up to his billing of fifth overall pick, he is a quality #2 for Tennessee.
At tight end, Jonnu Smith has stepped up in a big way in place of injured Delanie Walker. However, Anthony Firkser and Mycole Pruitt have also contributed behind him as well. All three will continue to get targets from Tannehill in the postseason and when defenses key on Brown, Davis and Henry, the tight end group could have a big day.
Don’t forget that Adam Humphries is also progressing back from an injury that has forced him to miss the last four games of the season. Humphries was a common target for Tannehill in the last few games before his injury. If he is healthy against the Patriots, the offense adds an additional layer in the slot that is tough to defend.
An Improving Defense
During that first six-game stretch, the Titans’ defense was dominant. However, the team only won two games. Since, they have had some issues defensively. These have mostly come due to injuries to key players like Malcolm Butler, Cameron Wake and Adoree Jackson. Butler and Wake are done for the season, but Jackson practiced last week and may be ready to go for Saturday.
Jackson’s return would help improve coverage significantly, but the issues with the pass-rush that have happened in Wake’s absence have already started to fade. Harold Landry has been fantastic in his second season, but outside of that, there were a lot of questions. Kamalei Correa has stepped up in a huge way starting on the opposite side and Derick Roberson has exploded for 3.5 sacks in just two games.
The Titans’ defense is formidable once again and will not leave an easy task for opposing offenses. Tennessee is the sixth seed, but don’t underestimate them. They could easily survive and advance their way far past expectations.