Why AFC South Champion Titans Can (And Cannot) Win Super Bowl LV

Tennessee opens the postseason by hosting Baltimore on Sunday


Jan 6, 2021

The Tennessee Titans were one doinked, game-winning field goal away from a much more difficult road in the AFC Playoffs.

… But it’s still far from easy for the AFC South champions.

Tennessee claimed their division with a Week 17 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. With the victory, the No. 4 Titans earned the right to host their first playoff game — a wild-card contest against the No. 5 Baltimore Ravens on Sunday — rather than travel to Buffalo and play the No. 2 Bills.

The Titans, you may remember, knocked the Ravens out of the 2019 postseason, and will look to do so for a second consecutive year. Oddsmakers, however, don’t seem to have too much confidence in the 11-5 Titans, perhaps best depicted with their 28-to-1 odds to win Super Bowl LV. The 11-5 Ravens, specifically, enter the postseason with 11-to-1 odds to win the title, per consensus data.

Why the Titans can win Super Bowl LV
Simply put, the Titans will as go as far as their offense can take them. Tennessee bolsters one of the league’s best units, ranking fourth in the NFL in points per game (30.7) and second in yards per contest (396.4). A major reason behind that is the production of Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher, who eclipsed 2,000 yards this season. The Henry-led running game ranks second in the league in rushing touchdowns (26), rushing attempts (521), yards (2,690) and yards per carry (5.2). The Titans are not a team you want to fall behind, as Henry allows Tennessee to keep the ball away from opposing offenses and win time of possession.

Henry, however, isn’t the only offensive contributor. With Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, the Titans have a pair of big-play receivers with A.J. Brown (70 rec., 1,075 yards) and Corey Davis (65 rec., 984 yards). So while Tennessee ranks 30th in passing attempts, they boost those numbers by ranking seventh in passing yards per attempt and 23rd in passing yards per game (228.3). Clearly, being in a run-first offense doesn’t give Tennessee receivers an extensive number of opportunities — Tannehill threw 481 passes on the season, 18th in the league — but with opposing defenses stacking the box to stop Henry, it gives them a chance to go against defensive coverages that could allow big plays downfield.

Why Tennessee can’t win Super Bowl LV
If the Titans are eliminated during Wild Card Weekend, or even in the divisional round, it’s likely going to be because of their defense. Tennessee’s pass defense is a glaring concern, especially seeing how they will have to go through Kansas City or Buffalo to reach the final game in Tampa Bay. Opponents threw against the Titans more than 30 NFL teams while Tennessee finished second to last in passing touchdowns allowed and 29th in passing yards allowed. The Titans finished the season ranked among the NFL’s worst in opposing quarterback rating, and were by far the worst of any playoff team.

It appears coach Mike Vrabel’s squad hasn’t watched much game film of the former Patriots linebacker, either. Tennessee is ranked at the bottom of the league in sacks, and a team that puts that much pressure on the back end of its defense (again, especially against Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, etc.) could be in for a short postseason.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images
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