Week 8 Results and Their Effect on the AFC South Playoff Race

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: Marcus Mariota
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: Marcus Mariota /
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Tennessee Titans (4-3)

Heading into their bye, many Titans fans were frustrated with the team’s performance in the first half of the season. Although the Titans sat one game over .500, the team’s performance did not match the expectations placed on it during the offseason. The team’s running game simply has not dominated to the extent that it did last year and Marcus Mariota has struggled with a hamstring issue that has limited him in recent weeks and rendered him one-dimensional. The passing game has stagnated recently and one of Mariota’s top targets in TE Delanie Walker was hurt against Cleveland. The pass defense has underwhelmed, but the lack of pass rush has been even more disturbing in that the team had a feared pass rush in 2016 and the toothless 2017 pass rush has made life harder on a young secondary.

That said, the bye could not have come at a better time for Tennessee. Mariota, Walker and DeMarco Murray all received much needed rest for nagging injuries and Mariota is allegedly at “100%” this week. Even better for the passing attack, top pick Corey Davis will return to the field after dealing with a hamstring injury, which should provide the offense with an elite outside receiver who will open up space for other receivers and the running game. Johnathan Cyprien will also return to bolster a pass defense that has faltered through the first eight weeks of the year. Cyprien could be the missing piece that this secondary has needed to truly gel and shut down opposing passers.

This week, the Titans will take on an inconsistent Baltimore Ravens team that was already defeated by Jacksonville in London. Like the Titans, the Ravens have managed to nurse their starting quarterback back to health, following a scary hit to Joe Flacco courtesy of Kiko Alonso. The Ravens will look to establish the running game with Alex Collins early and lean on their elite defensive talent after that. The Ravens are perfectly capable of playing spoiler if they are allowed to play their game and their defense will be a massive test for a Tennessee offense that should be rejuvenated coming off of their bye.