It hasn’t been a hot start out of the gates this season in the NFL. Looking through the standings, we see less parity than NFL fans are normally used to.
There are teams that have separated themselves from the pack – the undefeated Eagles, the 6-1 Vikings, and the 6-1 Bills come to mind. There’s also a lot of muck in the middle – a lot of teams stuck between 2-5 and 5-3, but will still have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs.
The big thing that followers of the NFL have noticed this year is that scoring is down. As fans, we’ve been treated to a lot of primetime games this year that have been deathly boring. The Colts-Broncos 12-9 Thursday Night Football match-up comes to mind.
The drop in scoring could be attributed to a number of things – decreased full practice time, teams using the early part of the season to gel and build chemistry, and new personnel getting adjusted to their teams. What it tells me from an expectations outcome is that we should anticipate someone who can win “ugly” football games to be a contender when we get to January.
The Tennessee Titans are the perfect candidate for that team who can win ugly. Built around a defensive and running mentality, they’re perfectly positioned to get a bye in the first round and to play smashmouth football that will take them all the way through the AFC playoffs and into the Super Bowl.
Derrick Henry and Ball Control Offense
The individual player we associate most closely with the Titans is running back Derrick Henry. He has been a bellwether for the Titans over the last 7 years (as well as many fantasy teams).
In the first few weeks of the season, Henry started slow. He didn’t gain over 100 yards in a game until Week 4. Since then, he’s gone over 100 yards each week. Not coincidentally, the Titans have also won every game this season where Henry has gone over 100 yards.
The Titans’ passing game is undergoing some struggles. Ryan Tannehill has struggled and been injured, leading to rookie Malik Willis taking over for Tannehill at various times throughout the season. Willis only threw one pass in the second half of their victory v the Texans.
Passing has not been a strong suit for the Titans this season. They rank at the bottom of the league in terms of total passing yards this season.
Defense and Record in Close Games
Head coach Mike Vrabel’s defensive background shows through with this Titans’ defense. The Titans are really tough in the red zone – they’re allowing the least rushing yards (624) of any team through 9 weeks of play. They’ve also only allowed 1 rushing touchdown all season.
The Titans also have an excellent record in close games. Dating back to Week 7 of 2019, the Titans have won 20 out of 28 games that were decided by one score or less.
The Titans look to set up for a tough run throughout the playoffs. I’m eagerly looking forward to next week’s match-up against the Chiefs. In a game of contrasting styles, it’ll be interesting to see how much Tennessee can ugly up the night game at Arrowhead Stadium.