The Titans did their part to keep the playoff dream alive with their dramatic win over the Jets. Tennessee’s playoff odds bumped up to 14% according to the New York Times playoff simulator (Football Outsiders’ model which takes in to account team performance is slightly more pessimistic at 7.1%).
In the AFC South the Texans won their ninth in a row, easily dispatching of the Browns to get to 9-3. The Titans and Colts are now even at 6-6 tied for second place after Indy lost 6-0 in Jacksonville this weekend. The Texans are winning the division for the third time in four years barring a total collapse down the stretch so it’s wildcard or bust for the Titans at this point.
Other games of interest for the AFC wildcard picture weren’t quite as favorable for the Titans. The Chargers knocked off the Steelers to get to 9-3. The Ravens won their third straight, improving to 7-5 and are now 3-0 with Lamar Jackson behind center. The Dolphins narrowly escaped the Bills to advance to 6-6. Finally, the Broncos beat the Bengals in a matchup between potential AFC wildcard contenders.
The updated AFC wildcard standings are below.
Chargers (9-3) - vsCIN, @KC, vsBAL, @DEN
Ravens (7-5) - @KC, vsTB, @LAC, vsCLE
Dolphins (6-6) - vsNE, @MIN, vsJAX, @BUF
Colts (6-6) - @HOU, vsDAL, vsNYG, @TEN
Broncos (6-6) - @SF, vsCLE, @OAK, vsLAC
Titans (6-6) - vsJAX, @NYG, vsWAS, vsIND
Bengals (5-7) - @LAC, vsOAK, @CLE, @PIT
From the Titans viewpoint, the Chargers are effectively out of reach at this point. Thanks to the head to head tiebreaker, Tennessee would have to win out AND have the Chargers lose out to pass them in the standings. Given that three of LA’s final four opponents are other teams that the Titans are competing with, Tennessee fans will be rooting for the Chargers a lot in December.
The AFC North race got interesting yesterday with the Ravens winning and Steelers losing. Baltimore is now just a half game back from the division lead which could bring Pittsburgh into the wildcard mix. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Titans. Tennessee will need at least one of those two teams to lose two of their final four games to have a shot at the last playoff spot in the AFC. Both the Steelers and Ravens have some tough games left on the schedule, starting with Baltimore’s trip to Kansas City this coming Sunday.
Steelers - @OAK, vsNE, @NO, vsCIN
Ravens - @KC, vsTB, @LAC, vsCLE
Besides the AFC North teams, the biggest threat to the Titans appears to be the Broncos. They cruised to another win on Sunday and have a laughably soft schedule until their Week 17 game against the Chargers who may or may not have anything left to play for at that point. The Titans only need Denver to slip once though.
They will also need the Dolphins to slip once, but their schedule appears to be far tougher with a home game against the Patriots and a trip to Minnesota on tap for the next two weeks. It would be a major upset for Miami to make it through those two games without a loss.
The Titans making the playoffs is still a longshot. The most plausible scenario requires them to win out, get a loss from the Broncos and Dolphins, and get at least two losses from either the Ravens or Steelers. For Tennessee to make it in at 9-7 you have to add an extra loss for each of those teams plus a loss from the Bengals. Could it happen? Sure, but a 10-6 Titans team makes the playoffs in 84% of simulations compared to 9-7 Titans teams checking in at somewhere between 9% and 30% depending on which game they lose.
Week 14 will be a big one for the Titans. They’ll need to beat the Jags and then hope for help with the Chiefs beating the Ravens, the Chargers beating the Bengals, the Raiders beating the Steelers, the Patriots beating the Dolphins, the 49ers beating the Broncos, and the Texans beating the Colts. If all seven of those games break the right way, the Titans playoff odds would jump to about 34%. There are still a million ways this could go wrong for Tennessee, but it’s always fun to be able to be in the playoff conversation this time of year.