The Tennessee Titans, focused simply on getting a win over the Saints in Week Nine, don’t want to talk or think about the possibility of ending the 2021 regular season as the AFC’s top seed.
Head coach Mike Vrabel, asked if there’s any temptation to start paying attention to the standings, responded with a quick and firm, “no.”
That’s alright. Since the Titans aren’t thinking about that, we will.
According to FPI…
The Titans have played the most difficult schedule in the NFL.
The Titans own the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.
No. 1 seed, here they come.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) November 8, 2021
As things currently stand, the 7-2 Titans have the best record in the AFC. If the postseason began now, they would indeed be the No. 1 seed, and they’d receive the coveted first-round bye that comes along with the honor.
Figuring out the likelihood of Tennessee finishing the season in the same position requires answering two major questions: how difficult is the Titans’ remaining schedule, and how well can we expect them to play?
The first question has a pretty simple answer: the Titans’ remaining schedule is pretty easy.
How easy? ESPN’s NFL Football Power Index rates Tennessee’s remaining schedule as the easiest in the entire league.
What makes the path ahead of the Titans so unchallenging? For starters, they get to play the hapless Houston Texans twice. They’ve also got another date with the two-win Jaguars, and they’ll host the 2-7 Dolphins in Week 17.
Every week in the NFL is a challenge, but the Titans are significantly more talented and better coached than virtually every team remaining on their schedule aside from the Patriots, Saints and Steelers.
Vrabel: No temptation to look ahead and think about being the No. 1 seed, getting a bye. #Titans
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) November 8, 2021
That leaves question No. 2.
The Titans proved in their dismantling of the Rams on Sunday Night Football that they’re more than capable of winning without RB Derrick Henry, who will be sidelined for the foreseeable future after having foot surgery on Nov. 2.
The manner in which they won that game, though, probably isn’t sustainable.
While it was effective in the red zone, the Titans’ offense struggled to move the ball against L.A. on Sunday. The unit got a lot of help from the Titans’ defense, which intercepted QB Matthew Stafford on two straight plays in the first half to swing the game by 14 points.
Even if the Titans’ defense, led by a fierce pass rush, continues to play well, the team won’t be able to win without better contributions from its offense.
Still, it is reasonable to expect improvement from the offense as it continues to get comfortable without Henry. The run game, which was lackluster on Sunday, will improve.
Vrabel and the Titans have a knack for finding ways to win in numerous different ways in varying situations.
That ability isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which is why picking the Titans to win their conference in the regular season is more than fair.
Cover image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today