Team: Tennessee Titans
2017 Record: 9-7 (2nd, AFC South)
2018 Record: 8-6 (t-2nd, AFC South)
Outlook: The 2017 Titans endured a tough schedule to finish 9-7, qualified for the playoffs for the first time in nine years, then rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit to beat the Chiefs 22-21 in the Wild Card Round of the AFC Playoffs—and the Titans still fired Mike Mularkey.
Mike Vrabel took over with a decent supply of young talent, and he’s parlayed it into an 8-6 record, good for a tie for second place in the AFC South. He finds himself in a very similar position as Jay Gruden and the Washington Redskins: Outside the playoff field, but just barely.
DeMarco Murray left this past offseason, which meant that it was time for Derrick Henry to get an even bigger spotlight. Henry led the Titans in rushing last year, even though he (technically) only started two games and got slightly fewer carries than Murray. Henry had struggled to be productive for much of this season, but he’s exploded the past two games with a total of 408 yards and six touchdowns. This success comes after not rushing for more than 58 yards in any of the previous 12 games.
Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota is having a decent year, despite missing two starts due to injury. Unlike 2017, he’s thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions. Largely as a result, Mariota’s QB rating is north of 90 again after dipping into the upper 70s last season.
The Titans were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team in 2017. Safety Kevin Byard was a bright spot, becoming an All-Pro pick in just his second season. Tennessee finished strong, though, allowing fewer than 21 points in seven of their final ten games to help the Titans slip into the playoffs. That momentum has carried over to this year, as Tennessee has allowed just 254 points, good for #2 in the NFL. They’ve given up a total of only 31 points during their current, three-game winning streak. They’re also seventh in the NFL in yards allowed.
How Worried Should We Be?: Very worried. I think the Redskins’ defense actually matches up well against the strengths of the Titans’ offense, although Mariota’s running ability scares me. However, Tennessee has played the same two teams as Washington the past two weeks while faring much better. Whereas the Redskins gutted out a last-second win over the Jags on Sunday after getting killed by the Giants the week before, the Titans shut out New York 17-0 on the heels of a 30-9 beating of Jacksonville.
The homestanding Titans also have at least as much on the line as the Redskins. Both teams have an excellent chance to make the playoffs if they can win their last two games. The Redskins need the Seahawks, Vikings, or perhaps even the Cowboys to falter. If just one of those teams slips as Washington goes 9-7, the Redskins will qualify. Likewise, the Titans have the same record as the current sixth-seeded Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts. Tennessee needs some help, but odds are that a 10-6 finish would get them in, as they play the Colts next week and the Ravens still have to battle the Chargers.
If there’s reason for optimism among Washington fans, it’s that the Titans have been fairly inconsistent: Since their bye week, the Titans have beaten the Cowboys by two touchdowns in Dallas and crushed the Patriots by 24, but also lost to the Colts by four touchdowns and to the Texans by 17. Maybe they’re due for a stinker after two good showings? Or maybe that’s wishful thinking.
On the Redskins’ side, another off-field distraction has emerged in the form of the arrest and charges against Montae Nicholson. That incident and the associated video provide yet another unwelcome sideshow for a franchise that can’t seem to go more than a few weeks without stumbling into a new one.
Even more relevant to Saturday’s game is the troubling prospect of the Redskins having to put together an effective offensive attack against the Tennessee defense. Josh Johnson was serviceable against a tough Jags defense, and that’s to be commended. The recently-returned Jamison Crowder obviously made a difference. And Adrian Peterson hit another gear with the game on the line.
But the Redskins won’t have the luxury of competing against an offense as anemic as Jacksonville’s. Unlike last weekend, one touchdown won’t be enough, and Washington won’t be able to lean on winning the field-position battle most of the day.
That means, yet again, the offense will need to play over its head. There’s no question about the effort and the will to win, but will the patchwork unit be able to do enough to get a second consecutive road win?
I hope so. But I worry. A lot.
How worried should the Redskins be about the Tennessee Titans?
This poll is closed
Not too worried