Titans Clinch AFC South Title, 2022 NFL Playoff Berth After Colts' Loss to Raiders

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2022

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 12: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates after the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans clinched the AFC South title Sunday by virtue of the Indianapolis Colts' loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Titans have now reached the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, which is the longest streak in franchise history since it moved from Houston to Tennessee in 1997.

Tennessee has posted a winning record in each of Mike Vrabel's four seasons as head coach, and the team has not missed the postseason since going 9-7 in Vrabel's first campaign at the helm in 2016. The Titans are 11-5 in 2021.

It can be argued that Vrabel has done the most impressive work of his tenure this season because of injuries to key players.

Running back Derrick Henry, wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, linebacker Bud Dupree and cornerback Caleb Farley are just a few of the players who have spent time on injured reserve.

That has forced the Titans to lean on unheralded players such as running backs D'Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols, and wide receivers Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers.

The one true constant on offense has been veteran Ryan Tannehill, who entered Sunday with 3,327 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the season.

Tennessee has also benefited from the play of three key defensive players in linebacker Harold Landry, lineman Jeffery Simmons and safety Kevin Byard.

Landry and Simmons came into Sunday with 11 and 7.5 sacks, respectively, while Byard has recorded five interceptions.

The Titans shocked the football world two years ago when they made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, but the Baltimore Ravens knocked them out in the wild-card round last season.

While the AFC is tightly packed and highly competitive, the Titans may have a chance to get over the hump and reach the Super Bowl if they can get some of their key players—such as Henry, who could reportedly return as early as next week—healthy before the start of the postseason.