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Checking in on the Titans playoff odds heading into a crucial Week 13 matchup with the Colts

You could say this is a big game.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

The Titans picked up a huge win against the Jaguars in Week 12, pushing their record on the season to 6-5 and getting on the board with their first AFC South win of the year. That win, combined with the Jets upset victory over the Raiders, helped Tennessee climb into a four-way tie for the AFC’s second wildcard spot heading into December.

Current AFC Playoff Picture

Seed Team Wins Losses Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Seed Team Wins Losses Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
1 Patriots 10 1 at HOU vs KC at CIN vs BUF vs MIA
2 Ravens 9 2 vs SF at BUF vs NYJ at CLE vs PIT
3 Texans 7 4 vs NE vs DEN at TEN at TB vs TEN
4 Chiefs 7 4 vs OAK at NE vs DEN at CHI vs LAC
5 Bills 8 3 at DAL vs BAL at PIT at NE vs NYJ
6 Steelers 6 5 vs CLE at ARI vs BUF at NYJ at BAL
7 Raiders 6 5 at KC vs TEN vs JAX at LAC at DEN
8 Colts 6 5 vs TEN at TB at NO vs CAR at JAX
9 Titans 6 5 at IND at OAK vs HOU vs NO at HOU
10 Browns 5 6 at PIT vs CIN at ARI vs BAL at CIN

As things stand today, the Titans have a 29% chance of making the playoffs which includes a 16% shot at winning the AFC South according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings. Football Outsiders remains considerably more bullish on Tennessee’s odds, giving the Titans a 41.2% chance for making the postseason and a 26.2% shot at the division.

Regardless of which projection service you prefer, the Titans clearly have some work left to do if they want to be playing in January. However, the path to the playoffs is firmly in their control with four of their final five games pitting them against teams either tied or one game ahead of them in the standings.

So let’s take a look at the games that are coming up this weekend and the impact those matchups could have on the Titans playoff odds using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff projection system.

Titans (6-5) at Colts (6-5)

Sunday, December 1st at 12:00 PM

This is obviously the most important game of the week from a Titans standpoint. A win would boost Tennessee’s odds of making the playoffs from 29% to 50% and their odds of winning the division from 16% to 29%. A loss drops those chances to 14% and 7%, respectively. It’s a nearly perfect inverse for the Colts so this game carries a ton of meaning for both sides.

We will have plenty to talk about regarding this game as the week goes on so we don’t need to get too far into it here. Just know that this game is massive for the Titans playoff hopes.

Patriots (10-1) at Texans (7-4)

Sunday, December 1st at 7:20 PM (Sunday Night Football)

If the Titans win on Sunday, fans will get a chance to tune in and see if the Patriots can help them claim a tie for the division lead on Sunday Night Football. Tennessee doesn’t need outside help to catch Houston with the Week 15 and Week 17 head-to-head matchups looming, but a Texans loss to New England would certainly help provide a little more room for error down the stretch.

A Pats win would boost the Titans playoff odds from 29% to 31% and their division championship odds from 16% to 19% as things stand today.

Bill O’Brien is 0-5 against his former boss. It would be nice if he could be 0-6 following this game.

Raiders (6-5) at Chiefs (7-4)

Sunday, December 1st at 3:25 PM

Oakland blew a massive chance to take control of the AFC’s second wildcard spot and move into a tie atop the AFC West last week, getting beat down 34-3 against the Jets. The Raiders have been a terrible road team this year, going 1-4 with the sole win over the Colts in Indy.

A Chiefs win doesn’t make a huge difference in the Titans playoff odds, mostly because the Titans can — and will need to — take care of the Raiders themselves in Week 14. A win for Kansas City bumps Tennessee’s playoff odds just 1% according to FiveThirtyEight.

In fact, if you’re really feeling optimistic about the Titans moving forward, you could argue that Tennessee should be rooting for the Raiders to win this game and help position the eventual AFC South winner for a shot at the 3 seed. I think I would still lean towards pulling for Kansas City in this matchup though.

Browns (5-6) at Steelers (6-5)

Sunday, December 1st at 12:00 PM

This is another huge matchup in the AFC wildcard race. A rematch of the controversial Thursday Night Football game from two weeks ago that ended with Myles Garrett swinging Mason Rudolph’s helmet at Mason Rudolph’s head should make for a fascinating game. None of the primary participants in the melee will be playing in this game though. Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the league, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey — who attacked Garrett after seeing the hit — was suspended for two games, and Rudolph was benched for Devlin “Duck” Hodges last week.

This is a game where the rooting interests for Titans fans are pretty straightforward. The Steelers currently occupy the second wildcard spot thanks to tiebreakers over the other three teams with 6-5 records. There is a chance that the Titans could wind up passing Pittsburgh in the tiebreakers by the end of the season, but they’ve already locked up the tiebreaker against Cleveland by virtue of their Week 1 43-13 beat down of the Browns.

A Browns win would provide a 2% bump to the Titans playoff odds and that’s what fans should be rooting for here.

Bills (8-3) at Cowboys (6-5)

Thursday, November 28th at 3:30 PM

The Bills are a very very soft 8-3. Their 8 wins have come against the 4-7 Jets, 2-9 Giants, 0-11 Bengals, 6-5 Titans, 2-9 Dolphins, 2-9 Redskins, 2-9 Dolphins (again), and the 3-8 Broncos. That’s right... the Titans are by far the Bills best win of 2019 and Buffalo needed four missed field goals to get that done against a Tennessee team that was very different in Week 5 than the version we are seeing now.

That being said... the Cowboys have yet to win a game against a team with a winning record in 2019. Their best win was a home beat down of the 5-6 Eagles in Week 7. The NFC East is the division that the national media likes to pretend the AFC South is.

Obviously, the Titans could use a Cowboys win on Thanksgiving Day. While it might seem far fetched that Tennessee could make up the two game gap with Buffalo — plus the head-to-head tiebreaker — the schedule offers some hope. Buffalo’s next five games feature the quick turnaround trip to Dallas this week, followed by a home game against the Ravens, a visit to Pittsburgh, a visit to New England, and then a home game against the suddenly feisty Jets. A 1-4 finish is not out of the question and it’s worth noting that the head-to-head loss to Buffalo could be neutralized if the Titans finished in a three way tie with Buffalo and a team from either the AFC North or AFC West.

A Dallas win only provide a 1% bump to the Titans playoff odds, but every bit counts.

If everything breaks right for the Titans this weekend — Titans win, Texans lose, Raiders lose, Steelers lose, and Bills lose — their playoff odds would jump to 55% with a 35% shot at winning the AFC South according to FiveThirtyEight. The Titans beating the Colts is the only result that would represent an upset according to Vegas odds — Tennessee opened as a 3.5 point underdog, but that has moved down to just 2.5 points since opening — and it’s obviously the result that counts the most.

There are plenty of reasons to feel dread about this game given the history of these two franchises, but this is a Titans team that seems to have found an offensive identity under Ryan Tannehill in recent weeks. This is going to be a heavyweight fight in the trenches on both sides of the ball and the team that dominates up front is likely to come out on top and put themselves in position to challenge the Texans for the AFC South crown down the stretch.