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[Playoffs 2022] Tennessee Titans: the leader enters the arena

Tennessee Titans: 12 wins – 5 losses, 1st in the AFC

Like the Packers, Tennessee has had the luxury of taking a week off before the playoffs. An advantage gained in favor of a first place in the AFC and a surprising regular season. Even after the injury of their best player, the Titans kept up the pace grilling politeness to all the big teams in the conference.

You will now have to go through Tennessee to get to the Super Bowl. The formation of Mike Vrabel does not have the profile of a team that will fly over the debates, but it can look any franchise in the eye. Beating her won’t be easy.

How did they get there?

After two seasons in the playoffs, including a conference final, Tennessee is no longer a surprise to anyone. The Titans were expected at this level and they responded. After a mixed start to the season and two losses against the Cardinals and the Jets (2-2 after 4 games), the machine finally got going. The Nashville franchise has had six consecutive wins. And if a very affordable, even weak division is sometimes criticized, with the Jaguars and the Texans in particular, this series owes nothing to anyone.

The Bills, Chiefs, Colts, Rams, Saints…all fell to the might of Tennessee. The ingredients are simple, but ultra effective. In defense, it is very difficult to put points on him (20.8 units conceded per game in the regular season, 6th in the league). Perfectly coached by Mike Vrabel, the squad makes life difficult for any attack. On the other side of the ball, the ground game is necessarily the main weapon. With Derrick Henry at the head of the rocket, Tennessee is one of the best teams in this area (141.4 yards on the ground / meeting, 5th in the league). But beware, the passing game is not non-existent. Ryan Tannehill (3734 yards, 21 TDs and 14 INTs + 270 yards on the ground and 7 TDs) takes full advantage of play-actions to leave the defenses on their heels.

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Problem, during this series, Tennessee lost its star running back. With a 6-2 record, the Titans were in a very good position in the AFC then, but they weren’t giving much of their skin without the best runner in the league. Again, Mike Vrabel’s men have assumed their status. An end to the season with 6 wins and 3 losses to secure the number 1 seed. Not everything was perfect, of course, but this team has character and talented players. She is in any case for the first time in the position of the hunted.

The key player: AJ Brown (WR)

It would have been easy to put Derrick Henry here. The running back must return, but it is not yet known at what physical intensity he will be able to play (see below). With or without the star running back, AJ Brown will be the X factor of this campaign for Mike Vrabel. When he’s in good shape, this attack on the Titans takes on a whole new dimension. Ryan Tannehill has a player to lean on, a receiver who can be consistently open and win 50/50.

This season, his statistics are not the most impressive: 63 receptions, 869 yards and 5 TDs. The number 11 has only played 13 games and has not always been 100%. But when his health wasn’t a drag, he proved he was still one of the league’s best ball catchers. Like his four best performances of the season against the Bills (Week 6), Chiefs (Week 7), Colts (Week 8) and 49ers (Week 16) with 36 receptions for 530 yards and 3 TDs. No wonder those four meetings all ended in wins for the Titans. Tennessee will need a fiery AJ Brown to go far in these playoffs.

Why are they going to go all the way?

It’s rare that you come out of a Titans game dazzled by their performance. Tennessee is not going to crush his opponent in just one sector (except maybe Derrick Henry). On the other hand, it is difficult to find a crippling weak point for this team as it seems complete. The starting point of this construction is called Mike Vrabel. For his fourth year at the head of the franchise, the former New England player has managed to draw the quintessence of his group. Defense is the perfect example. Without a real star at the start of the season, this squad has established itself as one of the best in the league.

Kevin Byard (88 tackles, 5 INTs), Harold Landry (12 sacks, 75 tackles and 14 tackles for loss), Denico Autry (9 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 6 passes defended) or even Jeffery Simmons (8.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 6 passes defended), all emerged as major plays at the very high level. In attack, Derrick Henry’s health is at the center of many questions, but training has shown that she is capable of performing without him. The succession of D’Onta Foreman was more than honest (566 yards and 3 TDs) with 4.3 yards per range, the same average as Henry this season. AJ Brown and Julio Jones will also be there to support Tannehill, if they remain healthy. Above all, Tennessee is no longer the team that discovers the playoffs. The Titans have the experience of major events now and have known the importance of such an experience.

Why won’t they go?

Without Derrick Henry, the end of the season was assured without a real drop in results. Yet productivity has not been the same. With running back, the Titans averaged 28.37 points per game. Without him, that figure went down to 21.33 per game. That’s a drop of around 25%. Doubt hovers in particular on the ability of Ryan Tannehill to carry his offensive squad. We don’t know yet if the runner will be 100% back, but even if he is, to go all the way you need a quarterback capable of picking up a game or two, of getting his team out of trouble.

The former Miami pitcher has already proven his qualities, but also his limits. In AFC, he is now facing players like Burrow, Allen or Mahomes (and we are not even talking about a potential Super Bowl against Brady, Rodgers or Stafford), it is up to him to raise his level now. At a minimum, he will have to erase his mistakes and in particular interceptions. He threw 14 in the regular season, the third-highest total in the league.

Injured players

In this category, all eyes are bound to be on Derrick Henry. We haven’t seen the running back on the pitch since October 31. His injury against the Colts cut him off in his tracks when he was once again on an extraordinary basis (219 carries, 937 yards and 10 TDs in 8 games). Currently, he is still on the injured list, but is training with the team and responding well to the workload demanded according to Mike Vrabel. He should be activated within the week and participate in the first meeting of the Titans this weekend. It remains to be seen in what physical condition.

For the rest, the rest week did Tennessee a lot of good. At the start of the week, the franchise listed just three players on injury report with Teair Tart (DL), Naquan Jones (DL) and Buster Skrine (CB), with the latter two training normally. This is less than in week 1. We will note all the same the absence of players seriously affected during the season and who will not be back like Caleb Farley (CB), MyCole Pruitt (TE) or Marcus Johnson (WR ).


Rested and prepared, the Titans will be dangerous to take during this postseason, especially with the advantage of playing the next two games at home. Faced with the Bengals, Tennessee seems more complete and more experienced than its opponent and should be able to get by (not without difficulty).

In the conference final, however, it would be against the Chiefs or the Bills. And even if the men of Mike Vrabel have already brought down these two teams during the regular season, they seem a cut above. Derrick Henry’s teammates won’t fall easily in these playoffs, but the last step to the Super Bowl still seems a bit too high.

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