Titans don’t lack for self-awareness

Tennessee improves to 7-3, continues to put itself in favorable positions

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Derrick Henry
King Henry
Image: Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans returned Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers back to the land of sadness, winning via their usual blueprint. They continued to convert goal-to-go situations into touchdowns, Derrick Henry did King Henry things, and the defense held the Pack to 271 yards of total offense.

At 7-3 and at the very least tied for second in the AFC after this weekend, Tennessee is on a similar path as last year. If Mike Vrabel’s team takes care of business in the South and can go .500 against the Bengals, Chargers, Cowboys, and Eagles, they could have a route to the Super Bowl that takes place mostly in Nashville.

I know mentioning Tennessee and the Super Bowl in the same sentence induces eye-rolls from average NFL fans. They were a top seed a year ago and yakked all over themselves at home against Cincinnati. And then there was the collapse against Kansas City that was more Patrick Mahomes than anything they did wrong.

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The Titans, to me, are the AFC’s version of the 49ers with the benefit of being in a terrible division. They’re well-coached, physical, have a good-to-great defense, and lean on the run because they don’t have a quarterback.

Having a preference between Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill is like saying you have a favorite pre-packaged gas station sandwich, and none of that artisanal shit either. You know the ones in the triangle packaging that are like a couple of slices of lunch meat and a piece of cheese between two slices of white bread that stick to the roof of your mouth? Those sandwiches.

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Both QBs have played eight essentially serviceable games, completed a decent clip of passes, and kept the ball out of the opposing secondary’s hands for the most part. So why isn’t Tennessee a trendy dark-horse pick to go on a playoff run?

Kyle Shanahan’s career winning percentage is two games below .500 in his sixth season, and Vrabel is coming away victorious about 64 percent of the time in his fifth year. Is it because San Francisco has a Bosa?

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If Tennessee was in a conference with washed Tom Brady and Rodgers coming down from a bad trip instead of one with Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow, they would be getting slurped at an uncomfortable rate. I know that. It just feels like the Titans are due.

Maybe not due for a Super Bowl title, but an AFC championship game is certainly doable, and then anything is possible once you get there, right? … Right?! Here’s another comp for Tennessee: Poorish man’s peak Joe Flacco Ravens. While that Baltimore team didn’t own Brady, they were one of the few AFC teams to knock off New England in the postseason during peak Patriots.

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The biggest indication to me that the Titans should start being viewed dangerously year after year is the way they responded to getting exposed as a No. 1 seed and starting off 0-2 this season. A lesser organization would’ve flatlined like the Bengals did after enough sad Andy Dalton playoff losses, or the Texans before all that was wrong with Deshaun Watson was his supporting cast.

Bill Belichick wins ugly with a Country Crock of a quarterback, and he’s a genius. That’s all Vrabel has ever done. No one is bad-mouthing the Hoodie’s most successful disciple (playing for him, not coaching), but no one is talking about him like one of the brightest minds in the game either.

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I’m not going to sit here and tell you Tannehill is elite after going 22-for-27 for 333 yards and two touchdowns on Thursday night because I also saw the horrible interception he threw. The Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals have all looked vulnerable at times, and the Dolphins don’t have battle scars yet.

We’ve seen how the Titans win games. They’ve won seven of their past eight. If they keep winning and making the playoffs, one of these seasons a bounce is going to break their way — and they’re good enough to take advantage of it.