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The Titans Season Hangs in the Balance

The Titans' 2022 season may be on the verge of collapse.

After 4 straight losses, Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky broke the news that QB Ryan Tannehill is 'likely done for the season.'

This comes after his 2nd notable ankle injury of the season when he was tackled awkwardly during the first drive of Sunday's game in Los Angeles. Earlier this season, Tannehill battled a higher ankle injury, causing him to miss games against the Texans and Chiefs.

Tannehill was on pace for a similar season to last but with fewer interceptions and passing yards. All things considered, he has played well given that the offensive line has failed to protect him, receivers have failed to get open, and OC Todd Downing has failed to call a complete game that works to the strengths of the team's best players.

The Titans playoff hopes now fall on the shoulders of rookie Malik Willis. Willis' 2 starts this season were respectable performances but statistically, he totaled just 11 completions , 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception on 26 attempts.

What makes the news about Tannehill so devastating is the changing dynamic of the AFC South.

In contrast to the Titans' 4 straight losses, the Jaguars have strung together 3 straight wins over the Titans, Cowboys, and on Thursday, the Jets. The Week 14 meeting between the Titans and Jaguars was the Titans' first home loss against Jacksonville in nearly a decade and the team suffered an alarming 36 points against.

The Titans control their own destiny but there are few reasons to be optimistic they will take advantage of it. A win in Jacksonville in Week 18 would guarantee Tennessee a playoff berth... or give the Jaguars their first in 5 seasons.

While the Titans still lead the AFC South at 7-7, a slipup in Week 18 would mean the end of their season. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Titans playoff odds currently sit at 34% compared to more then 90% just a few weeks ago. After last night's win, the Jaguars jumped all the way to 69%.

Among all the factors that will determine whether the Titans make the playoffs, Malik Willis is near the top of the list of significance. Willis has the skills to surprise a lot of people in the final 3 games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

He showed evident improvement between the Texans and Chiefs game, made a greater impact rushing, and appeared more confident in the pocket despite a superior opponent. Still, without compliment from the rest of the offense, his inexperience may bleed through.

Calling the offensive line 'beaten up' would not be a strong enough term. The Titans will be without RG Nate Davis and C Ben Jones for the remainder of the season after they were both placed on IR this week. Tackle Dillion Radunz, who saw his first significant action of the season last week in place of Dennis Daley, tore his ACL.

This is a monumental blow to one of the league's least consistent lines that now must protect a rookie Quarterback and if the team is to have success, open holes for Derrick Henry.

Already the biggest criticism of the 2022 Titans, the line faces a steep task. This will likely force Aaron Brewer to move to center, Daley to move to Left Guard, Le'Raven Clark to step in at Left Tackle, and Jordan Roos to play RG. Moving Daley inside may be the lone beneficial move because he has struggled getting beaten outside, especially in recent weeks.

It has felt as though every other week Derrick Henry struggles to get to his second or third step before he his hit. Needless to say, a backup Quarterback and worsening Offensive Line will probably not help that.

While I am confident that Henry can dominate despite these issues we saw in Week 14 that if the game is not close in the second half, the team is forced to abandoned the run to come back.

That could also happen this week against the Texans. Despite Henry averaging 223 yards and 2 touchdowns per game in his last 4 competitions with Houston, the rest of the team is what concerns me that this streak may end.

If time of possession becomes an issue as it did when Willis was under center against the Chiefs, it will be an issue.

Willis must prove to defenses that he is a passing threat. With Treylon Burks and Chig Okonkwo showing signs of explosiveness, they could be imperative in ensuring the passing game remains dangerous. Similarly, the offensive line must, obviously, do all they can in getting Henry just a few yards of space and he can do the rest.

Defensively, stopping Trevor Lawrence, and Dak Prescott next week, will take playing a complete game. In his last 7 games, Lawrence has totaled 15 touchdowns and just 1 interception.

The pass rush that made noise early in the season must be present. A major bright spot of the Titans pass rush is that despite injuries, there is great depth on the edge and that will be a key to success.

Lawrence had far too much time in the pocket in Week 14 and was able to get the ball in the hands of one of many playmakers who dismantled the Titans after the catch.

While it may be hard to be optimistic about the Titans final 3 weeks of the season, there is still a very plausible path to the playoffs.

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