Tennessee Titans out to prove 2019 wasn’t fluke playoff run
The Tennessee Titans are being slept on. Whether that’s for good reason or not, that’s debatable.
Tennessee looked largely irrelevant through the first six games of last season. The Titans went 2-4 and decided to bench quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Over the final 10 games, Tennessee went 7-3 with Tannehill throwing for 2,743 yards and 22 touchdowns on the campaign.
In the playoffs, Tannehill and Co. dispatched the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in shocking road wins before coming up shy against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
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So, the question remains whether Tennessee is the 9-7 sixth seed nobody was overly-impressed by until the postseason, or if its the playoff power which came within one win of the Super Bowl.
Frankly, history says Tennessee is going to regress.
The Titans are banking on Tannehill to be the same player he was towards the end of last season. Although, examine the situation further. In his 10 starts, Tannehill threw for 300+ yards on three occasions. Those games came against the Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. None sniffed the playoffs.
Tennessee made the postseason because of a quality defense and the absurd prowess of running back Derrick Henry. Henry led the league in rushing, powered by 896 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns over the final six regular-season tilts.
Once Tennessee reached the postseason its formula for getting there remained unchanged. Henry rushed for 377 yards in the victories over New England and Baltimore, with Tannehill throwing for 160 yards. Not a typo. Henry more than doubled Tannehill’s output.
In the AFC Championship Game, Tannehill was forced to throw as Henry was limited to 69 rushing yards and Kansas City scored 35 points. The result was a lackluster 35-24 loss with Tannehill throwing for 209 yards on 31 attempts.
If the Tennessee Titans are going to be a legitimate threat to win the AFC in 2020, it comes down to Henry being as dominant, and Tannehill stepping up to play a larger role in the offense.
While neither is impossible, history says it’s improbable for Henry to be such a singular force while Tannehill emerges from being average most of his career to suddenly factoring on a weekly basis.
However, with the AFC South seemingly up for grabs and the defense still being a strong unit, it would be foolish to count Tennessee out.