How do you top an unforgettable post-season run the following year? Well if you’re Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry (franchise tag), it starts with getting paid, but I’m not confident the rest of the magic will be there. With Tannehill taking the starting reins in week seven, the Titans went 7-3 down the stretch to finish 9-7 before winning two road playoff games. Impressive, yes, but not sustainable. Don’t forget that only two of the seven wins came against playoff teams including a meaningless week 17 game for the Texans, who had already clinched the division title.
Besides the schedule factor, another key behind my expectation is defensive scheming; teams will continue to stack the box to stop the Henry freight train forcing Tannehill to win games from the jump. Although the signal-caller had his best season statistically last year, I don’t anticipate teams to allow Tannehill 15 or less passing attempts per game (the recipe for success in both road playoff W’s). And by forcing Tannehill to put the ball in the air, I expect to see more of the six inconsistent, injury-plagued Miami seasons than the 2019 fluke. Working against me of course is the aforementioned Henry, who put a ton of miles on the tires en route to leading the league in rush attempts with 386 (a whopping 85 higher than Zeke in second). That number doesn’t even include the 83 attempts he had across the three 2019 playoff games. The success of the Titans, much like their cap, is tied up in these two players.
The final piece of the equation is a schedule that appears tougher than their 20th ranked SOS currently depicts. Opening in the altitude of Mile High, the team also plays three tough road games at Minnesota, Baltimore, and Green Bay (this last one on the frozen tundra in December). In general, the AFC North-AFC South match-up dynamic will likely prove tough for all of the South teams given the anticipated strength of the AFC North. Add all of this up and it equals a disciplined team that will fight, grind but still fall short of their win total.