King Henry has done it again. Not only did Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry win the rushing leader title for the second year in a row, he did in epic fashion. By now, fans have probably heard that Henry eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark with an impressive 250 yard performance in the Titans 41-38 win over the Houston Texans last weekend. He’s now the first player to do win back-to-back rushing titles since LaDainian Tomlinson did it in in 2006 and 2007, and he’s certainly not done yet. The Tennessee Titans playoff chances are dependent on Henry and it starts with their matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.
Tennessee Titans Playoff Dreams Hinge on Derrick Henry
Henry Continues To Impress
The Titans snowy blowout loss on the road to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago aside, rushing title holder Derrick Henry has dominated the regular season in more ways than one. His 2,027 yards on the season isn’t just good; he won the rushing title by a wide margin, with the next closest competitor being Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings. Henry crushed Cook by 470 yards.
Henry also broke a record held by a trio of Hall of Famers, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Tomlinson, by recording a fifth game with over 200 rushing yards. The aforementioned legends each had three such games. And, perhaps most importantly, his 17 touchdowns in 16 games and 7.4 yards per rushing attempt show he’s capable of getting the Titans points and therefore a chance to win every game.
Matchup Against the Ravens
As the winner of the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans playoff hopes will no doubt hinge on Henry’s ability to carry the team deep into the postseason, as he did almost out of the blue last year. For the Titans Super Bowl dreams to become reality, though, they first must get through the Baltimore Ravens this weekend, which is no easy feat.
Without a playoff win to his name, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will be hungry for a chance to get the naysayers off his back. It’s a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional Round showdown, where Baltimore went into the game as the best team in the league but ran into a brick wall in Henry. Jackson went 39 for 51 in that game, with one touchdown and two interceptions. By contrast, rushing title holder Derrick Henry put the Titans on his back and ran for 195 yards and also threw a perfect touchdown. This year the Titans are once again going into Sunday’s game as underdogs and they absolutely need Henry to have another monster of a game to win and advance.
Kansas City Chiefs Possible Matchup
Should the Tennessee Titans make a run at the Super Bowl again this year, there’s a good chance they will have to get by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs will be well rested after earning the bye for winning the top seed in the AFC. Kansas City is also red hot and riding a 10-game win streak going into the NFL’s final regular season weekend, where they lost but didn’t play many of their starters. Patrick Mahomes is looking just as good, if not better, than last year and the Tennessee Titans playoff hopes will probably require on a big game from Henry should these two teams meet in the postseason.
The good news for the Titans this year is that they’ve beaten the Chiefs recently. Back in November 2019, the Titans took a close game, 35-32. Again, it was Henry that won the game for the Titans, when he rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns. To beat the Chiefs for a second time in two months, Henry would definitely need to better the measly 69 yards he came up with in last year’s AFC Conference Championship, where the Titans lost to the Chiefs, 35-24.
Ryan Tannehill Not as Important as Derrick Henry
Ryan Tannehill is a good quarterback, but he is not what carries this Titans team. With 33 touchdown passes this season, Tannehill tied for seventh among NFL quarterbacks and his 78.7 QBR rating put him at fourth in the league. He’s only thrown seven interceptions all season and his 3,819 passing yards is a respectable number. However, his completion percentage is only 66.7% and it’s hard to believe that will be good enough to compete with the likes of Jackson or Mahomes. Simply put, the Titans need Henry to continue to drive their offense to go deep in the playoffs.
An ordinary offense can sometimes be bolstered by a great defense, like the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans, that’s not the case. The Titans defense is just short of brutal, with a league worst 15 sacks in 16 games, and their 394.3 yards per game allowed is fourth worst. The Titans will need Derrick Henry to make up the difference and help them put up points and keep opposing offenses on the sideline.
He probably won’t win the 2020 MVP award (Aaron Rodgers probably will) but Derrick Henry might be the most important player to his team in the playoffs. While other AFC teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, and even Buffalo Bills have a few options to spread the ball around, the Titans offense is more confined to the run game.
Considering Tannehill’s completion percentage, the Titans miserable defense, and an aging kicker in Stephen Gostkowski’s (who posted a 69.2% field goal percentage this season), a Tennessee Titans playoff run will clearly need strong performances from Henry. The AFC is a difficult conference; the Miami Dolphins had a winning record at 10-6 but that wasn’t good enough to earn a Wild Card spot. It’s tough to put a team’s success on one person, but the Tennessee Titans need King Henry to put up stats in the playoffs like he did all season. If he doesn’t, the Titans won’t have any hope of rising above a challenging AFC field and reaching the Super Bowl in 2021.