NFL: Who's Competing with the Tennessee Titans for an AFC Wild-Card Spot?
The Titans are not winning the AFC South.
The Titans are, however, in the running for one of the two wild-card spots in the AFC. After a head-coaching change and the first-round selection being spent on a quarterback, I'll be psyched if the Titans make the playoffs at all.
However, they aren't the only ones in the running.
Here's a look at how the Titans stack up to the rest of the teams in the running.
1st Things 1st: Tennessee Titans
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Now, however, Chris Johnson looks like he's finally back in top form. He's put over 100 yards on the last two opponents and scored two touchdowns last week.
That ought to help take pressure off the passing game, which is suffering from a distinct lack of Kenny Britt. Nate Washington, if he's out for long, will only compound that problem.
Luckily for the Titans, the rest of the schedule isn't bad. They face the Saints next week, which will almost certainly be a loss, but after that, they have the Colts and Jaguars again before finishing the season against the Texans.
The Titans will probably be 9-6 when they go off to Houston, so it'll likely be the outcome of that game that decided their fate.
The Given: Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Steelers are tied for the top of their division right now with the Baltimore Ravens, both at 9-3. The Ravens own the tiebreaker against the Steelers, though, so they're the leaders right now.
However, the Steelers have been great all season and are almost assured a playoff spot.
They also own the tiebreaker over the Titans via head-to-head matchups.
The Steelers will be in the playoffs. Book it.
The Young Guns: Cincinnati Bengals
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The AFC North may produce both wild-card teams this season. I can't say enough good things about what Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are doing up in Cincinnati.
The Bengals have two tough games and two easier games left on their schedule. Next week, they host the Texans, which will still be a tough matchup, even with Houston on its third strong quarterback.
After that, they have a break, going down to St. Louis and then hosting the Cardinals. Both of those should be losses.
Then, they face divisional rivals the Ravens at home in the final week. The last time the two played, the Bengals lost by only seven points on the road, so a loss is not a given.
Assuming they beat their NFC West opponents, the Titans need the Bengals to lose both games to the Ravens and the Texans to have a shot at a playoff berth.
The Bengals own the tiebreaker.
AFC West 1: Denver Broncos
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Yes, they've been impressive lately. No, I'm not sold yet.
Two of those games will be losses. If not, the Broncos win their division.
Either way, they aren't a concern for the Titans. The Titans also own the tiebreaker, by the way.
AFC West 2: Oakland Raiders
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The Raiders, like I said, could still win their division, but when you compare their remaining schedule to the Broncos, it doesn't look likely.
Oakland has two winnable games left—the Chargers and the Chiefs. Neither of those is a guarantee.
Even if they win both divisional games, that only puts them at 9-7, which won't be enough to make the playoffs this season.
If it matters, the Titans own the tiebreaker right now on conference wins.
Repeat Runners Up: New York Jets
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Yet another 7-5 squad. The Jets seem to always put it together at the end of the season to make the playoffs, but this year might be the exception.
Mark Sanchez doesn't look capable of consistency. One week he looks great, the next he still looks like a second-round rookie (not the Andy Dalton kind, either).
Still, the Jets have a manageable schedule leftover. This week, they're hosting a terrible Chiefs squad before going on the road against the Eagles. I don't know what to make of that matchup. Both squads have underperformed this season, but occasionally show flashes of brilliance.
The New York Giants are a much tougher prospect. The Giants nearly upset the unbeaten Packers last week, before Rodgers pulled it together for a win.
Their last game will be against a surging Dolphins team in Miami. I'm actually taking the Dolphins to win that one. Matt Moore has been great since he got the starting job from an injured Chad Henne.
The Titans own the tiebreaker against the Jets as well for conference wins.
Recap: It's Bengals vs. Titans
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The real competition for the sixth spot in the playoffs is between the Bengals and the Titans. The Steelers are shoo-ins, and the Titans own the tiebreakers against everyone else except the Bengals.
Both squads are likely to get two more wins. The Titans will beat the Jaguars and the Colts before facing the Texans, and the Bengals will win against the Rams and Cardinals before taking on the Ravens.
Similar seasons, eh? The Titans need to beat the Texans, in Houston, to get to 10 wins. They then need the Bengals to lose to the Ravens. If either of those things doesn't happen, the Titans will be watching football in January, not playing.
It may come down to what the Texans do. Houston may be the third seed at the end of the season, meaning that they'll be playing whichever squad (the Bengals or the Titans) that gets in on the last playoff spot.
Even if they're too good for the Titans to handle, they may rest their starters to avoid injury and give the Titans an easier time before they face them again in the first round of the playoffs.
If Cincinnati beats Houston next week, that's it for the Titans. So...go Texans, I guess.