"Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen...," cackled by Emperor Palpatine when he first sets foot on the Death Star in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. As Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts imploded on Sunday, while Tennessee squeaked by the Oakland Raiders, similar sentiments ran through the minds of Titans fans.
Tennessee needed losses from the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, along with the obligatory victory in Oakland, to jump from ninth in the AFC to the sixth seed and gain control of the their own playoff destiny. The win left quite a bit to be desired, as the team struggled with penalties, red-zone offense and special teams.
These mental errors are fast becoming the identity of the 2013 Tennessee Titans. This week, the Titans were able to overcome their errors and score a game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds of the game.
Obviously, there are issues here that still need to be worked on, but I'll focus on them in a piece focusing on the matchup against the Colts this weekend. In the meantime, let's focus on what could happen this weekend to give Tennessee a little bit of breathing room in the wild card race.
The Titans missed an opportunity to take the division crown with back-to-back losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their upcoming opponent.
The Colts are in the midst of some turmoil over the last four weeks, being outscored 92-13 in the first half and going 2-2 in that span. The Titans have the opportunity to put more pressure on the slumping Colts by pulling to just one game back of them in the AFC South.
The Titans have come up just short in their three tilts against the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts, losing games by six, four and three points. A win this week would truly put Tennessee back in the hunt for the AFC South championship.
The Jaguars and Houston Texans are clearly out of the competition, but both play the Colts and Titans and can play a major role in deciding which team takes the crown.
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||9||2||Chiefs/Broncos tied for division lead|
|6||Tennessee Titans||5||6||Wins tie vs. PIT, SD, NYJ b/c head-to-head|
|7||Pittsburgh Steelers||5||6||Leads BAL due to Week 7 win|
|8||Baltimore Ravens||5||6||Leads SD due to Conf. win pct.|
|9||San Diego Chargers||5||6||Leads NYJ due to Conf. win pct.|
|10||New York Jets||5||6||Leads MIA due to AFC East record|
The Titans' wins within the conference are integral to their playoff positioning, setting them up to win tiebreakers with half of the teams they are competing with. If Tennessee finishes the season tied with Pittsburgh, San Diego or the New York Jets, the Titans come out on top because head-to-head results are the No. 1 tiebreaker for wild-card seeding.
In regards to the other two team (Baltimore and Miami), conference record becomes the key. Entering Week 13, the Titans are 4-4 in AFC competition. Baltimore sits at 5-4 and Miami is 4-3. This is where the Titans' wins over Pittsburgh and New York count double, because it applies any tiebreaks the latter teams have over the former to Tennessee.
There is a bit at stake for the Titans on Thanksgiving Day in the Steelers-Ravens matchup. Titans fans would be wise to root for a Pittsburgh sweep of the season series in order to maintain their tiebreaking advantage over the Ravens.
In regards to Miami, as luck would have it, the Dolphins visit the Jets this week. For the same reasons listed above, the Jets are the team root for in this matchup. If things go the other way in either, or both, of these matchups, the Titans will be at much greater risk of losing the sixth seed.
If things go in the Titans' favor, the Titans will have a one-game lead on two of the teams currently tied with them and still maintain ironclad tiebreaks over at least two more teams. After last week's action, the Titans' chances of making the playoffs have risen from 8.8 percent to 16.7, according to Football Outsiders.
The Titans are on the fourth kick and punt returner of the season after signing Leon Washington to a deal on Tuesday. Tennessee has gone from Darius Reynaud to Damian Williams to Devon Wylie.
The team cut Wylie to make room for the signing, and it wasn't all that surprising after he fumbled the ball again in Oakland. Washington has eight kick return touchdowns in his career, tied for the most in NFL history.
The team hopes the signing will provide some stability to a position that has been a bit of a nuisance this season.