The most important thing to know about the Titans this week is that a win over Houston puts them into the playoffs regardless of the outcomes of any other games. They win and they’re in thanks to the strength of victory tiebreaker they’ll hold over the Steelers if they also win and finish 9-7.
However, there is also a possibility of the Titans getting in with a loss or tie so let’s take a quick look at those scenarios before we jump into the rooting guide.
If the Titans tie Houston...
- The Titans would need a Steelers tie or loss against Baltimore to make the playoffs.
If the Titans lose to Houston...
- The Titans would need a Steelers loss to Baltimore AND a Colts loss to Jacksonville to make the playoffs.
The Ravens have already clinched the 1 seed in the AFC and will be resting Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, and probably a few other key starters, but honestly, they’re still talented enough with Robert Griffin behind center to make things tough on the Steelers. Pittsburgh will be without QB Mason Rudolph, who replaced a struggling Duck Hodges last week before suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him back out of the line up, C Maurkice Pouncey, and RB James Connor for this game themselves.
The Colts and Jaguars are both eliminated from playoff contention, but Indy can still screw things up for the Titans with a win over Jacksonville. A Colts win to get them to 8-8 would effectively block the Titans path into the playoffs due to the divisional tiebreakers. If multiple teams from the same division wind up in a wildcard tiebreaker scenario, the NFL breaks the ties within the divisions first before going to the wildcard tiebreakers. That means that an 8-8 Colts team would finish 2nd in the AFC South over an 8-8 Titans team due to having a better division record. The Colts would then lose their tiebreaker with the Steelers thanks to Pittsburgh’s Week 9 head to head win over Indy.
There is still a wild scenario where the Raiders could sneak in as the 6 seed. It would require a Titans loss, Steelers loss, Colts win, Browns win, and of course, a Raiders win, but it’s at least theoretically possible. However, the Titans don’t really need to worry about the Raiders and all those games. If Tennessee loses to Houston, they just need the Steelers to lose and the Colts to tie or lose and they’re in. Anything else and they’re out.
Week 17 Rooting Guide
If the Chiefs win this game, they lock the Texans out of the race for the 3 seed, effectively removing any incentive — besides spite and pride — for Houston to try to win against the Titans.
That would likely mean the Titans end up facing A.J. McCarron and several Texans backups at 3:25. Houston listed seven players — QB Deshaun Watson, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Kenny Stills, LT Laremy Tunsil, LB Jacob Martin, CB Bradley Roby, and S Jahleel Addae — as questionable on their Friday injury report in addition to ruling WR Will Fuller out officially. My guess is that all maybe one or two of these guys will sit out if the Chiefs win.
The Chiefs have plenty of motivation to win themselves. They’re just a game behind the Patriots for the all-important 2 seed and the first round bye that comes with it. Kansas City would be able to grab the bye with a win over the Chargers and a Patriots loss to the Dolphins.
Even if the Patriots take care of business, getting the 3 seed instead of a potential 4 seed would likely be valuable enough to motivate the Chiefs in this game. The 3 seed is guaranteed to avoid a trip to Baltimore until the AFC championship game. Kansas City would much rather go to Foxborough in the divisional round, a place where they won just a couple weeks ago.
Dolphins at Patriots (12:00 PM CST)
This game has no impact on the Titans playoff odds, but it could factor into who they would play in the first round of the playoffs. A Patriots loss combined with a Chiefs win would send Tennessee to New England in the wildcard round if they get in themselves.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is an interesting debate. On one hand, the Titans have had a ton of success against the Chiefs recently, winning the last four matchups between the two teams including the comeback playoff win two years ago and the Titans thrilling 35-32 win earlier this season.
On the other hand, the Chiefs we’ve seen recently aren't the same as the group we saw in Nashville in Week 10. Since that game, KC has rattled off five straight wins and their improving defense has given up less than 10 points per game over that stretch. They also have Patrick Mahomes... you may have heard of him.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have lost two of their last four with an offense that continues to struggle to get on the same page. I think I’d rather see the Titans go to New England than Kansas City personally, as crazy as that sounds. A Patriots loss combined with a Chiefs win would provide that matchup if the Titans get in.
Steelers at Ravens (3:25 PM CST)
This game will be going on at the same time as the Titans-Texans game and it only matters if the Titans lose.
The Ravens will be resting Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram along with a few other key starters most likely since they already have the 1 seed clinched, but Robert Griffin and Gus Edwards are better than what the Steelers are going to have in the backfield Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Baltimore wins this game despite not needing it.
Colts at Jaguars (3:25 PM CST)
This one will also be going on at the same time as the Titans game. As laid out above, a Colts win would ruin any chances for Tennessee to get in with a loss to Houston.
Indy can’t get in themselves so it remains to be seen exactly how much effort they give in the finale. Same goes for the Jaguars, whose season ended weeks ago.
I have no idea what to expect in this game. I think the Colts are the better team, but divisional games are always tough to predict.
Potential Titans Playoff Matchups
If the Titans do get in, they’ll be the 6 seed and will travel to the 3 seed for the first round of the playoffs. There are three potential teams that could end up in the 3 seed heading into Week 17. Here are those teams and what would need to happen for the Titans to play them next week.
The Titans face the Chiefs if...
- The Patriots beat the Dolphins and the Chiefs beat the Chargers
- The Chiefs lose to the Chargers and the Texans lose to the Titans
The Titans face the Patriots if...
- The Chiefs beat the Chargers and the Patriots lose to the Dolphins
The Titans face the Texans if...
- The Chiefs lose to the Chargers, the Texans beat the Titans, the Steelers lose to the Ravens, and the Colts lose to the Jaguars
The Titans road through the playoffs will be tough if they get in. They’ll open with one of the three teams above — likely the Chiefs — and then would travel to Baltimore in the divisional round if they advance.
Those are all problems for another day though. The important thing is the only part of this that is in their control: beating the Texans and advancing to the playoffs.