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NFL Playoff Picture: Week 14 rooting guide for Titans fans

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The Titans already have a W in the bank, but this Sunday will still be very important to their playoff odds.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans 30-9 pummeling of the Jaguars on Thursday night means that the team will remain in the thick of the AFC playoff picture for at least another week. However, there are several games going on this Sunday that will have major implications on the Titans chances of getting in to the postseason.

I ranked those games in order of importance based on the following proprietary scale along with who Titans fans should be rooting for in each matchup and why.

5 Derrick Henry Stiff Arms = Must-have game, Titans cannot advance without this game breaking the right way.

4 Derrick Henry Stiff Arms = Nearly must-have game, Titans need a near miracle to get in if this happens.

3 Derrick Henry Stiff Arms = Pretty important, but there are still realistic routes to the playoffs available if it goes the wrong way.

2 Derrick Henry Stiff Arms = Would be nice to have it, but it’s not that big of a deal.

1 Derrick Henry Stiff Arm = Doesn’t really matter which way this game goes.

Ravens at Chiefs

Time: Sunday at 12:00 PM CST

Line: Chiefs -7

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 3

The key division in the AFC wildcard picture right now is the AFC North. The Steelers lead the division with a 7-4-1 record coming in to Week 14 with the Ravens just a half game behind at 7-5. The Ravens also currently lead the race for the 6 seed in the AFC that the Titans are chasing.

For Tennessee to reach the playoffs they’ll need to pass at least one of those two teams which means the Titans need to win out and get two losses from either the Ravens or the Steelers. The good news is that both teams have some losable games left, starting with the Ravens trip to Kansas City this weekend.

The Chiefs are a pretty heavy favorite at home, but this certainly won’t be a cakewalk for Patrick Mahomes and Company. The Ravens defense is extremely tough — as Titans fans know better than we’d like to — and since Lamar Jackson was inserted at quarterback they’re 3-0 and have rushed for over 200 yards in each game. The Chiefs run defense ranks dead last in DVOA so this could be a very interesting matchup or Patrick Mahomes could continue making a mockery of NFL defenses. Titans fans should be rooting hard for the latter.

This is the most important game of the weekend for Titans fans because a Ravens win would leave Tennessee needing Baltimore to drop two of their final three against the Bucs, Chargers, and Browns. Not likely.

Broncos at 49ers

Time: Sunday 3:05 PM CST

Line: Broncos -3.5

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 3

The Broncos enter Week 14 at 6-6, but they would own the tiebreaker with the Titans if both teams finish 10-6 so Tennessee needs some help. The Broncos remaining schedule is ridiculously soft — at SF, vs CLE, at OAK, vs LAC — so a road trip to San Francisco is about as good of a shot for them to slip up as any of those other games, especially if the Chargers don’t have anything to play for in Week 17.

This will be Denver’s first game without star receiver Emmanuel Sanders and star corner Chris Harris Jr. who both went down with season ending injuries last week so it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up. The Broncos defense and running game are both outstanding and that makes it a little tough to see them faltering here, but road games in the NFL are never a guarantee.

Patriots at Dolphins

Time: Sunday 12:00 PM CST

Line: Patriots -7

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 2

The Dolphins are in the same spot as the Broncos. They’re 6-6, but would own the tiebreaker with the Titans thanks to their head-to-head matchup way back in Week 1. The big difference between Denver and Miami is schedule. Miami has a tough game this weekend as they host the Patriots and then they travel to Minnesota the following week. It would be a pretty big upset for Miami to win either of those and the Titans just need them to lose one of them.

While it always sucks to root for Tom Brady and the Patriots, this is a weekend to do it. This looks like a lock on paper, but for whatever reason, Brady is just 7-9 in Miami over the course of his career.

Steelers at Raiders

Time: Sunday 3:25 PM CST

Line: Steelers -13

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 2

OK, OK, stop laughing. A fan can dream right? A Pittsburgh implosion in Oakland would be a huge help to the Titans playoff odds as they would draw just a half game behind the Steelers with three weeks left to play.

The Steelers schedule is tough down the stretch as they host New England next week, travel to New Orleans in Week 16, and then return home to face Cincinnati in the final week. If the Steelers were to lay an egg in Oakland, there is a really good chance the Titans would be able to catch them down the stretch.

This Raiders team has nothing left to play for, but to their credit, they put up a good fight against the Chiefs last week. It would be an enormous upset if the Steelers don’t cruise to an easy win here though.

Colts at Texans

Time: Sunday 12:00 PM CST

Line: Texans -3.5

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 2

There are two schools of thought when it comes to rooting interest for the Titans when it comes to this game.

Reason to root for the Texans: If you believe there is zero chance the Texans could lose two of their final three games — at NYJ, at PHI, vs JAX — then this is the scenario for you. The Titans don’t need a Colts loss because of the Week 17 head-to-head matchup, but if Indy loses two of the next three — at HOU, vs DAL, vs NYG — and the Titans beat the Giants and Redskins, the Colts would enter Week 17 with nothing to play for. Maybe that takes a little fire out of their performance and gives the Titans a better chance to win.

Reason to root for the Colts: There are several reasons to pull for a Colts win. First, as stated above, the Titans don’t need the Colts to lose. In order for Tennessee to make the playoffs they almost certainly have to win against the Colts in Week 17 which would put them in over Indy regardless of what the Colts do over the next three weeks. More importantly, the division is still — barely — in play. The Titans would own the tiebreaker with Houston if both teams were to finish 10-6. It’s hard to see Houston losing two of their final three, but crazier things have happened.

I lean towards rooting for the Colts here because even adding extremely slim odds of winning the division is more valuable to me than hoping for an unmotivated Colts team arriving in Week 17. Either way, this game will help the Titans in one way or another.

Bengals at Chargers

Time: Sunday 3:05 PM CST

Line: Chargers -14.5

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 1

This one barely matters at all. The Bengals are 5-7 and heading nowhere fast. The Titans are already ahead of them, but another Bengals loss helps keep the extremely slim possibility of a 9-7 Titans team slipping in to the playoffs (they would still need a TON of other help though).

The Chargers are pretty much out of reach. LA would have to lose out for the Titans to catch them and the odds of that are almost zero.

Giants at Redskins

Time: Sunday 12:00 PM CST

Line: Redskins -1

Derrick Henry Stiff Arms: 1

This is an extremely indirect tie in between two NFC teams. The Giants theoretically still have a chance to win the NFC East at this point, but a loss to the Redskins would end that. An officially eliminated New York team could decide to start making some business decisions when the Titans come to town next week.