Despite the Chargers failure, there is still a path for the Titans to control their own destiny heading in to Week 17 and we will get to that in a moment, but first, here are the updated AFC standings as of last night’s results:
1 Chiefs (11-3)
2 Texans (10-4)
3 Patriots (9-5)
4 Steelers (8-5-1)
5 Chargers (11-4)
6 Ravens (9-6)
7 Titans (9-6)
8 Colts (8-6)
There are several games that could matter to the Titans today, but two clearly matter far more than others.
Steelers at Saints
This game is absolutely massive for the Titans playoff hopes. The simplest path to the postseason for Tennessee is to beat the Colts and have either the Ravens or the Steelers lose one game. This matchup is clearly the best opportunity for either AFC North team to stumble. Week 17 has the Ravens hosting the Browns while the Steelers host the Bengals. Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh will be heavy favorites in those games against teams that will have no motivation to win outside of playing spoiler for their division rivals.
However, a road trip to New Orleans might be the single toughest test in the NFL right now. The Saints are a league best 12-2 overall with a 5-1 record in New Orleans where they average an eye popping 38 points per game. The Steelers are a pretty good road team on the season at 4-2-1 away from Pittsburgh, but their last road game resulted in a loss to (arguably) the worst team in the NFL.
This is simply a huge game for the Titans playoff hopes. A Saints win would simplify rooting interests and put the Titans officially in win-and-in mode for Week 17 with no scoreboard watching required. A Steelers win would make things extremely cloudy for Tennessee. The Titans would enter Week 17 needing to beat the Colts and get help from at least one upset elsewhere in the AFC. That also could hurt the chances of having the Titans-Colts game flexed on to Sunday Night Football.
Texans at Eagles
This is the other big one for Titans fans. If the Texans win this game, they clinch the AFC South division title. An Eagles win, however, would keep the door cracked for the Titans to potentially sneak in and grab their first division title since 2008 and the home playoff game that goes with it. Of course that would also require the Jaguars to upset the Texans on the road in Week 17, but crazier things have happened.
The Eagles are coming off a road win over the Rams and fighting for a playoff spot of their own in the NFC so this game should be one of the best of the day.
FLY EAGLES FLY!
Bills at Patriots
This game only matters for the Titans if the Texans lose as well. A Patriots loss would give the Titans a chance to end up in the 2 seed and get a first round bye if they were to manage to win the AFC South. The Titans would need to beat the Colts and get the following games to go their way to get the 2 seed:
- HOU loses to PHI AND JAX
- NE loses to either BUF OR NYJ
- BAL loses to CLE
- PIT loses to either NO OR CIN
It’s a longshot, but until it’s completely ruled out it’s worth rooting for. Besides, it’s fun to root against the Patriots.
Giants at Colts
This game doesn’t matter for the Titans playoff hopes. Tennessee is going to have to win next week to get in regardless of what happens in this game. There are two schools of thought here.
- Root against the Colts because a loss would mean that they will need help in Week 17 to get in and maybe they get discouraged. There is no scenario where the Colts are completely eliminated from the playoffs today so don’t get your hopes up for them resting Andrew Luck or anything like that, but maybe a loss takes some of the wind out of their sails.
- Root for the Colts because the Titans are going to have to beat them anyway and a Colts win makes it far more likely that the Week 17 Titans-Colts matchup gets flexed to Sunday Night Football.
I would probably fall closer to Camp #2, but rooting for the Colts is gross so I’m just ignoring this game. Whatever happens, happens and we will settle this in Week 17.