Taking out the possibility of the Titans winning the AFC South, how many wins will it really take to get the Titans to the playoffs?
On paper, the Titans are competing with roughly eight teams for the final wild card spot in the AFC. However, the Titans are in the driver's seat with tiebreakers over New York, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Oakland. That leaves just Baltimore (6-6), Miami (5-6), Cleveland (4-7) and Buffalo (4-7) as the only teams that the Titans don't own a direct tiebreaker over.
The Ravens currently lead the Titans by a half-game in the playoff hunt, but they have a rough schedule ahead of them. Baltimore faces a possible trap game against Minnesota next week, but after that they have Detroit (7-5), New England (8-3) and Cincinnati (7-4) in the final three weeks. The Ravens will be lucky to manage an 8-8 record, and likely will struggle to get anything more than the 7-9 record that would be expected.
The Dolphins started off the season at 3-0 with a win over the Colts, but since then they have gone a staggering 2-6. Miami still has to face off against the New York Jets (5-6) twice, not to mention games against the Patriots (8-3) and Pittsburgh (5-6). The Dolphins aren't looking at an easy road to the playoffs, and will have to win three games to move themselves into a position to even be considered as contenders and I don't think they have it in them.
Like the Dolphins, the Browns have a murderer's row of teams they will need to beat in the final weeks to have a shot at the playoffs. If they are going to get to 8-8 then they can only lose to ONE of these teams: New England, Chicago, the New York Jets, or the Steelers. That spells a six win season to me, and behind the arm of Brandon Weeden they may not even get that.
The Bills probably have the easiest path to the playoffs with games against the Falcons, Buccaneers and Jaguars but two of those games are on the road. If the Bills falter against any of those teams, then they will have to run the table against the Dolphins and Patriots to put themselves at 8-8.
So what gets the Titans in?
Well, after looking at the schedule, I think there will be a lot of teams hovering at that 7-9 mark at the end of the year but only a few 8-8 teams. If the Titans can get to 8-8, I think their strength of schedule and tiebreakers will get them in. If the Titans want a near-guaranteed ticket to the playoffs, sweeping the rest of the division from here on out would go a long way. That would put the Titans at 8-8, with a chance to steal one against the up and down Arizona Cardinals (7-4) and the Broncos (9-2) who have been worse than advertised in the cold this year.