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Why You Shouldn’t Count Derrick Henry and the Titans Out of the AFC Championship

Jared Block
by in NFL on
Oct 27, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Just a quick heads up, this is about to be a complete Titans ‘STAN’ article. Tennessee continues to be overlooked and are “longshots” to win for the third week in a row. The following facts will tell you why they are just as equipped to win the AFC Championship as Kansas City is this weekend.

Derrick Henry is the first back in NFL history to run for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games. While that stat in itself is impressive, the fact that he’s done it against the run defenses of the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots in back-to-back playoff games is just one of the reasons that the Titans have a shot of heading to Super Bowl LIV.

Most defenses in the current age of the game are designed to defend the air-raid passing game. Focused on anywhere from 3-5 receiver sets, a lot of the defenses in the league over-compensate to stop the pass and deep threats that many offenses present. The Tennessee Titans have gone full throwback and have fully invested in a ‘Run the D*** Ball’ type of approach. Defenses are just not built to stop this type of offense, especially when a 6’3”, 240-pound truck is not backing down from anyone in cold temperature playoff weather. The Titans are easily one of the most physical teams in the league, and Derrick Henry, along with the underrated offensive line, lead the charge physically.

Henry has averaged 30 carries in each of the last three weeks, sparking the offense and wearing down opponents from 5+ yard carry after 5+ yard carry. Think you can stack the box on him? Nah, you can’t do that either. Henry and the Titans faced a stacked box (at least 8 players in the box pre-snap) on 135 carries this season, by far the most in the NFL. On those 135 carries, Henry lead the NFL with 729 yards and 13 touchdowns. Absolutely absurd situational numbers that shed a little more light on why they are where they are this week.

But how can the Titans offense be so good? While Derrick Henry isn’t just their best offensive weapon, he’s also the guy that keeps defenses honest. Front sevens must constantly keep the run personnel in to make sure that back to back runs don’t result in first downs. Sure, Ryan Tannehill didn’t have to throw for more than 88 yards in either big playoff win, but to say Henry is the Titans only offensive weapon is a massive understatement. Since Tannehill became the starter in Nashville, they’ve led the league in 6.94 offensive yards per play. They averaged a league third-highest 30.4 points per game and have scored on 31 of 35 red zone trips (88.6% score rate, 75% touchdown rate). AJ Brown has also greatly exceeded first year expectations, proving his deep threat ability several times during his rookie season.

For all of you who are locking in Kansas City to advance to the Super Bowl this weekend without hesitation, I urge you to reconsider. I personally recommend betting the Titans to cover the 7.5 points in Sunday’s AFC Championship game, as I believe that Henry will once again be able to work his Hulk magic and give the Titans a real shot.

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