AFC's top seed is Titans' to lose after surviving Saints

·3-min read

A team that lost to the New York Jets and is missing its best player has the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. 

The Tennessee Titans held off a late rally on Sunday to secure a 23-21 win over the New Orleans Saints. The win was their sixth straight and their second since losing All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to a potentially season-ending foot injury. They clearly missed Henry as they struggled to gain traction on the ground. But they got just enough from their running back committee and thwarted a game-tying two-point effort from the Saints in the game's final moments to hold on for the win. 

With the win, the Titans improve to 8-2 and hold a 1.5-game cushion over a handful of AFC teams that will finish Week 10 with a 6-3 record. With the NFL's easiest remaining schedule, the AFC's top seed is theirs to lose.

Nov 14, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates after a touchdown during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Tannehill and the Titans have the inside track to the No. 1 seed. 9Christopher Hanewinckel/Reuters)

They didn't necessarily look like the AFC's best team in Sunday's win. They needed several breaks en route to the win, including a pair of missed extra points by Saints kicker Brian Johnson and a questionable roughing-the passer penalty against New Orleans that nixed a Ryan Tannehill interception and kept a touchdown drive alive. 

The missed extra points forced the Saints to go for two after a late touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian to Marquez Callaway with 1:16 remaining pulled New Orleans within two points. 

But a false start pushed the attempt back five yards, and a Siemian pass to Mark Ingram in the end zone fell incomplete, forcing the Saints to attempt an onside kick. The Titans recovered to seal the victory.

Tennessee clearly has some work to do on offense with Henry sidelined. A Saints team playing without All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara and starting backup Siemian at quarterback outgained the Titans in total yards, 373-264. They held the Titans to 66 rushing yards on 29 attempts. 

Schedule favors Titans in second half of season

But the schedule is kind to the Titans in the second half of the season with their remaining opponents carrying a .353 winning percentage through Week 9. According to CBS, that's the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. It includes a pair of games against the Houston Texans and matchups against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. Their only opponents in the playoff picture are the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

While the Titans have their share of flaws, so does the rest of the AFC. If they handle their business against the dregs of the conference, the road to the Super Bowl could end up running through Nashville. 

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