Tennessee Titans: Dark horse contender in the AFC?

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Tennessee Titans are 6-1 since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback and, on a four-game winning streak, are the officially a dark horse in the AFC?

When people talk about the AFC, more often than not you’ll hear teams like the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs mentioned as contenders — mainly because these teams garner the most attention with their star power. But entering Week 15, there is another team we need to start paying more attention to in the AFC: the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans started the season off 2-4 and things were looking pretty grim. Media and fans alike started to write them off and chalk it up as another failed season. The Titans coaching staff, however, decided to make a move at the quarterback position, benching Marcus Mariota and starting former Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Since then, the Titans are 6-1 boasting wins over the Chiefs, Jaguars, Colts and Raiders. At this point, Tennessee is hitting its stride at the perfect time, three weeks before the playoffs. And what they’re doing right to earn your attention is worth noting.

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The Titans have the league’s eighth-best rushing offense, per ESPN, which is spearheaded by the league’s second-leading rusher, Derrick Henry. Couple that with the 10th-best rushing defense and you have quite the formula for success.

Moving on from Mariota in favor of Tannehill has also served them well. Tannehill has been playing some of the best football of his career with a QBR of 57.8, which ranks 13th in the NFL. With a new quarterback at the helm, the Titans offense has gotten over a hump and is competing (and winning) against playoff-caliber teams and eyeing a playoff spot.

On Sunday in Week 15, the Titans are at home against the Houston Texans, a team that struggled to get going against the Denver Broncos and ended up losing, 38-24. Call it a hunch, but I’ll take Tennessee at home over the Deshaun Watson-led Texans.

If Tennessee beats the Texans, they’ll take the top spot in the AFC South and go on to face the New Orleans Saints, a tried and true NFC contender, in Week 16. This will be the biggest test of the Titans defense. Michael Thomas is perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL and the Titans secondary has looked suspect at times, which Drew Brees could attack.

But even if the Titans were to fall against New Orleans, they finish the regular season in Houston for their second game of the year against the Texans. And they have the chops to beat their division rivals twice to take the division.

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With the way the final three games of the 2019 season shape up for Tennessee, they’re primed to win the AFC South and clinch a playoff berth. The question then becomes just how far this team can go. In their current state with the weapons they have, though, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a dark horse run through the postseason. No matter the end result, though, the Titans should not be slipping under the radar anymore and should be a thrill to watch until the conclusion of this year.