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Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry are leading one of the NFL’s hottest offenses heading into December

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Should Tannehill be in the Pro Bowl? Could Henry win the rushing title? Just how good is this Tennessee offense?

Tennessee Titans v Carolina Panthers

The Titans offense produced 9.1 yards per offensive play during yesterday’s 42-20 blowout victory over the Jaguars, breaking a franchise single game record set during Steve McNair’s 2003 MVP season when his offense produced 8.8 yards per offensive play against the Texans. That mark also checks in as the 29th most efficient offensive performance for any team in the Super Bowl era, nestled between games from Steve Young’s 49ers and Jim Kelly’s Bills. Not bad company to keep.

Two weeks ago, the Titans offense produced at a rate of 7.6 yards per offensive play in their 35-32 win over the Chiefs, which ranks as the 27th most efficient performance in franchise history. That’s two top 30 performances in franchise history over the last two games. I don’t care if they were playing the Dolphins and Bengals in those games, that’s impressive.

The offensive renaissance in Nashville dates back beyond the Chiefs game though. Since Week 7, Tennessee ranks 3rd in the NFL in points scored behind just the 49ers and the Ravens:

  1. 49ers 185 points over 6 games (30.8 PPG)
  2. Ravens 157 points over 4 games (39.3 PPG)
  3. Titans 147 points over 5 games (29.4 PPG)
  4. Saints 144 points over 5 games (28.8 PPG)
  5. Cowboys 142 points over 5 games (28.4 PPG)

They rank 2nd — behind just Baltimore — in yards per play (6.8) and rushing yards per attempt (5.65) and check in at 4th in the league in net yards per pass attempt (7.8). Tennessee also leads the NFL in both explosive pass rate and explosive run rate since Week 7 per Sharp Football Stats.

This isn’t just a reflection of strength of schedule either. Football Outsiders DVOA — which accounts for strength of schedule as well as factoring in game situation on a per play basis — had them as the 7th best offense in the league from Week 7 to Week 10 and that’s before the Titans record setting 42 point eruption against Jacksonville. There is nothing gimmicky or fluky about this hot streak. This is simply an offense functioning at an extremely high level right now.

Obviously, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots between Ryan Tannehill’s move into the starting lineup and the Titans offense finding it’s way. There is certainly more to it than that, but Tannehill’s numbers suggest that the quarterback change was the primary driver in the jump from 16.3 points per game over the first six games to 29.4 points per game over the last five:

  • Yards Per Attempt: 9.2 (1st in the NFL)
  • Completion Percentage: 72.1% (2nd in the NFL)
  • Passer Rating: 111.4 (3rd in the NFL)
  • Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt: 7.6 (7th in the NFL)

Tannehill has also added three rushing touchdowns of his own that aren’t captured in any of those numbers above. His 10 passing touchdowns since Week 7 are tied for 4th in the league over that time frame and his 1,276 passing yards are 10th in the league and four of the nine players ahead of him have played an extra game.

Since taking over as a starter, Tannehill is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Full stop. I’d fully expect MVP candidates Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes to be the top AFC choices for postseason honors if the season ended today, but Tannehill deserves legitimate consideration based on what he’s put on the field to this point.

Of course, this offensive bonanza isn’t all Tannehill’s doing. His backfield mate, Derrick Henry, and the offensive line clearing the way for him deserve a ton of credit as well. The fourth year back leads the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns since Week 7, accumulating 575 yards and 6 scores on the ground in five games at a scalding 6.18 yards per carry clip.

Now just 9 yards short of his second straight 1,000 yard season, Henry checks in behind just Christian McCaffrey (1,123 yards), Nick Chubb (1,117 yards), and Dalvin Cook (1,017 yards) in the race for the 2019 NFL rushing title. As we talked about two weeks ago in the All-22 Review, Henry’s penchant for finishing seasons strong make him a legitimate challenger to make a run to the top of this list over the next five weeks. There is no doubt that Henry should be earning his first Pro Bowl selection of his career at the end of this season.

The Titans offensive line has finally begun to gel in the run game as well, much like they did late in the 2018 season. Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold are becoming the dynamic duo on the left side that they were expected to be when Jon Robinson went out and signed Saffold during the offseason and Nate Davis is beginning to settle in at right guard. Jack Conklin and Ben Jones have played pretty well throughout the season.

Finally, Arthur Smith is starting to put it all together. Criticisms of his work early in the season were fair, but given the fact that this is Smith’s first time calling plays at any level, the stats above that have been posted over the last five games are pretty impressive. Against Jacksonville, he was in total control, manipulating the Jaguars defense with an array of screens, play action passes, bootlegs, and run calls. Any time you produce 9.1 yards per offensive play and 42 points, you’re doing something very right as a playcaller.

With a healthy set of weapons surrounding Tannehill and Henry, the Tennessee Titans — yes, those Titans — suddenly have one of the NFL’s hottest offenses heading into the final month of the regular season. If they can come even remotely close to duplicating the effort of the last five games over the next five games, this is a team that can not only make the postseason, but could make some real noise in January.

Tennessee has a lot of work to do between now and then — starting with overcoming their long time tormentors to the north this week — but with Tannehill and Henry each producing at a top five level, the Titans finally have an offense that they not only can win with, but they can win because of and that is a song we’ve been waiting to hear in Nashville for years.