Only the most naive Tennessee Titans fans thought the team had playoff hopes this year.
Well, here we are going into the final week of the season, and the chance is still there. I've got some predictions for you...
First off, let's review the three ways that the Titans can earn the sixth and final seed in the AFC:
1) Titans beat Texans + Ravens beat Bengals + Jets beat Dolphins + Chargers beat Raiders
2) Titans win + Bengals lose + Jets win + Chiefs beat Broncos
3) Titans win + Bengals lose + Dolphins win + Raiders lose + Broncos lose
To clarify, there is no chance that Tennessee ekes into the postseason if the Titans or Ravens lose. Both of those teams must win.
It's going to be one hell of a Sunday, perfect for you to plop down in front of the TV to work off your New Year's Eve hangover.
The Titans play at 1:00 PM ET. Even if they don't get in this year, I really hope they pull through to make the late afternoon insanely fun for us to watch, as the Bengals, Jets, Raiders and Broncos all play at 4:15 PM ET. Talk about a late Christmas present!
Week 17 Predictions
I'm a diehard Titans fan, and we all know that diehards are always the hardest on their teams.
Every year is going to be terrible, every play is a mistake and every player needs to be cut. We can't help it. We love our teams too much for them not to be perfect.
That being said, I actually think the Titans will find their way into the playoffs.
The Titans will beat a beleaguered Houston Texans team that desperately needs to rest their star running back, Arian Foster. Houston has already clinched the AFC South and the No. 3 seed, so there is nothing to gain, and they don't want to add yet another star player to their injury list.
Remember, the Texans are without Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams.
The Baltimore Ravens will beat the upstart Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have had a terrific season under the leadership of rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, but they won't have enough to overcome the great Ravens. Both have a lot to play for, which is unfortunate for Cincy.
The New York Jets, also playing for their playoff lives, will beat the Miami Dolphins. This is no shoe-in though, as Miami is perhaps the most improved team of the season. Their run defense is one of the best in the NFL, but the Jets have too much crunch-time experience to drop the ball here.
As for the two AFC West teams, the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, I truly don't know which one will lose, but I do see one going down. The Raiders have a tough draw against an angry San Diego Chargers team that boasts as much talent as anyone.
The Broncos go up against a revitalized Kansas City Chiefs squad that has found its rhythm with interim coach Romeo Crennel and new quarterback Kyle Orton. One thing for certain with Tim Tebow is that you never know what's going to happen—for better, for worse.
Wild Card Round Playoff Predictions
So now that I've got the Titans in the playoffs, we might as well start analyzing the playoff game: an ironic rematch of the Week 17 bout between the Titans and Texans.
There will be an energy-hyped crowd in Houston with the Texans making their first-ever playoff appearance. Crowds are fickle though, and a few big plays on the side of the two-tone blue could quiet them down.
Matt Hasselbeck, who has provided solid play and tremendous leadership in his first year in Nashville, will be a huge asset in this playoff game. Not only is he a veteran of the league, but he is also a veteran of the playoffs, having gone to six different postseasons while with the Seattle Seahawks.
He has even played in the Super Bowl. I'm a Jake Locker fan, but the advantage goes to Hasselbeck here.
Speaking of quarterbacks, isn't that the most important position on a football team, especially in the playoffs? If so, don't the Titans have to have a great chance of defeating rookie T.J. Yates and the Texans?
Don't look now, but the Titans will beat the Texans and move on to the Divisional Round.
Divisional Round Predictions
The Titans will get owned by the New England Patriots.