The Titans have clinched a second straight AFC South title and three straight playoff spots with Mike Vrabel prior to Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season. This time, Tennessee is also tied for the best record in the AFC at 11-5 and can enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed with home-court advantage and the only goodbye.
Here we break down how the Titans can maintain their first favorable spot in Super Bowl 56 and also take a look at how far they can fall in the rankings on Sunday:
What do the Titans need to do to get the No. 1 seed?
They can maintain their place in one of three ways in Week 18:
This is the easiest and most likely scenario. Tennessee is a heavy road favorite in Houston. But the Titans won’t take the host Texans lightly either, as they lost to them at home, 22-13 in Week 11. That would put the Titans at 12-5, either tied with the Chiefs or a game ahead. . The Titans have head-to-head tiebreaker criteria because they beat the Chiefs at home in Week 7.
This is almost like No. 1, but this would ensure that none of the three 10-6 teams behind the Titans and Chiefs (the Bengals, Bills and Patriots) can catch up on the standings. Tying the Chiefs for the standings but staying ahead of everyone else also secures No. 1. Unfortunately for Tennessee, Kansas City is also a huge favorite on the road in its game in Denver on Saturday.
Tennessee would be asking for a little miracle here to keep No. 1 by failing to beat Houston. In addition to the Chiefs losing to the Broncos, the Bengals cannot win on the road to the Browns and the Patriots cannot win on the road to the Dolphins. The Titans, 11-6 in that scenario, would still be tied with the Chiefs but still ahead of the Bengals and Patriots by half a game or a full game.
The Titans are 11-6 here again, tied with the Chiefs and ahead of the Bengals. But here, the Bills would also be 11-6 and win the AFC East over the Patriots. There are no problems in a three-way tie between the Titans, Chiefs and Bills because the Titans beat both teams.
How low seed can the Titans be in the AFC?
If the Titans don’t take No. 1, they could finish No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4.
The Titans beat the Chiefs and Bills. But they also lose tiebreaks to the Patriots (head-to-head for losing in Week 12) and the Bengals (conference record).
Implicit in the No. 1 scenarios above, the Bengals are also up for the No. 1 seed. Depending on the results for the Chiefs and Bengals, the Titans are more likely to fall to No. 2 or No. 3 with a defeat.
The only way the Titans can fall to No. 4 is if the Patriots win the AFC East by beating the Dolphins while the Bills lose as big favorites to the Jets. That’s on top of the Chiefs and Bengals leaping to the Titans with wins while the Titans lose.
With results ranging from getting a free pass to the divisional round to facing the toughest matchup in the wild-card round, the Titans shouldn’t want to leave anything to chance beyond their control.