The Tennessee Titans traveled to New York and kept themselves in playoff contention by shutting out and running over the Giants.
Going into Sunday’s road game against the New York Giants, the Tennessee Titans were set up for a classic “trap game” scenario, despite the Giants being favored. Instead of being their inconsistent selves and laying an egg, the Titans easily took care of business and improved to 8-6, setting themselves up for a serious playoff run over the final two weeks of the season.
The Titans are close to controlling their own destiny
The win over the Giants didn’t shake up the playoff picture, but the Titans were able to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts, both of whom won this past weekend. The Miami Dolphins losing to the Minnesota Vikings moves them behind the Titans at 7-7, as the Titans jump up a spot to the 8th seed. While the Titans still don’t control their own destiny, Saturday could change all of that.
On Saturday, the Titans take on the Washington Redskins and fourth-string QB Josh Johnson. Later that night, the Ravens face the 11-3 Los Angeles Chargers on the road. A loss this weekend by either the Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers would push the Titans into a position where they clinch a playoff spot just by winning out, due to the Titans facing the Colts in Week 17. It seems crazy that the Titans could go 10-6 and miss out on the playoffs, but that rarely happens, and there is a good chance the Titans will be playing for the final playoff spot at home in the final game of the regular season.
Derrick Henry is playing like everyone has always hoped he would
Coming into this season, fans and media alike were excited to watch Henry carry the load for the Titans with incumbent starter DeMarco Murray riding off into the sunset during the offseason. Henry operated as the lead back for the first quarter of the season, but his inefficiency — 175 yards on 57 touches (3.07 yards per touch) — forced the Titans into slotting in Dion Lewis as the primary ball-carrier throughout the middle part of the season. After the bye week, though, Henry began catching and lapping Lewis in effectiveness on the ground.
Since coming out of the Week 8 bye, Henry has carried the ball 94 times for a whopping 609 yards and 10 touchdowns– good for a 6.48 yards per carry average. Over the past two weeks, the Titans offense has completely relied on Henry. He has run for an absurd 408 yards and six touchdowns on 50 carries, while Marcus Mariota has attempted a measly 44 passes for 250 yards and no scores. Henry has finally begun to show supreme aggressiveness, as well as patience, at the point of attack. Not since the playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs has Henry run hot like this, and the entire team is taking advantage of it.
The defense balled, but they now have to deal with some setbacks
Shutting out any NFL offense is nearly impossible, especially in today’s NFL, but that’s exactly what the Titans did on Sunday — something they hadn’t done since 2000. A stellar defensive performance held the Giants to 260 total yards and 4.1 yards per play. The Titans also sacked Eli Manning three times, picked him off once and forced a fumble that they recovered on one of those sacks. The most impressive part of the performance was holding rookie phenom Saquon Barkley to 31 yards on 14 carries on the ground and just 25 yards through the air on four catches.
Despite the impressive showing, the Titans defense will be without two key players for the remainder of the season. Slot CB Logan Ryan broke his fibula and is out for the remainder of the regular season and likely for the entirety of the playoffs as well. LeShaun Sims replaced Ryan on Sunday and played most of the slot snaps, so he will have to step up and carry on Ryan’s solid form. The other player that was injured on Sunday was OLB Sharif Finch; he was carted off with a shoulder injury and Paul Kuharsky is reporting that Finch could also be out for the rest of the season. Finch has been a monster when on the field in a limited role, and with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan still struggling to capture their form of previous years, Finch’s loss could really hurt over the next two weeks.