November 15, 2021

Tennessee Titans Are the Team to Bet on to Win the AFC in 2021

The moment Derrick Henry broke his foot against the Indianapolis Colts, many presumed the Tennessee Titans were dead in the water. Despite entering this past week 6-2, the Titans were, to many outsiders, set to fulfill expectations bestowed upon them as a fun, but non-threat in a deep AFC. 

After all, this roster can and has looked so limited in critical areas. The secondary has lost some of their most talented players through free agency, age, and injuries over the last two years. The offense is way too reliant on a banged-up Julio Jones and 36-year-old Adrian Peterson for production.

In many ways, though, the Titans are simply good at being strange. Their decision to cut Adoree' Jackson last offseason put more pressure on general manager Jon Robinson to revamp a corner unit that always had more interesting names than actual performers. The Titans helped reshape Ryan Tannehill's career into a highly efficient play-action artist and built an offense revolving around a running back.

Investments into the 32-year-old Jones with just 336 yards and zero scores in six games played, and Josh Reynolds, who was cut last week after contributing 90 yards total, have not paid off yet. 

Even with all of their problems, the Titans are 7-2, freshly off a 23-21 win against New Orleans. They're also tied with the second-best odds to win the AFC and make the Super Bowl. 

Even though the Titans are limping to the finish line right now, they are absolutely worth a look as a potential team to bet on to win the AFC in 2021. 

Nothing about this team's latest win over the New Orleans Saints was overly sexy. Tannehill completed 19-of-27 passes for 213 yards and one score. The three backs who tallied carries totaled 22 touches for 58 yards, and the leading rusher was former third-round draft bust, D'Onta Foreman. The Titans' leading receiver was Marcus Johnson, a 27-year-old who had 60 yards on the season prior to his 100-yard outburst against the Saints.

The perceived weakness of the team, the defense, was again solid when they needed to be. Granted, the Saints were without Alvin Kamara in addition to Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, but the dominance of the defense has been a continuation of their efforts all season.

The defensive line has been stellar behind Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons. Landry logged his 10th sack of the year while Simmons grabbed two more, giving him 7.5 on the season. The duo was supposed to be joined by free-agent signee, Bud Dupree, but he's been a no-show this year off a major injury.

Again, the Titans' toughness prevails as setbacks mount. As leading tackler David Long missed the game with a hamstring injury, 22-year-old Monty Rice almost doubled his season's total of 12 tackles in just this game. Corners JJ Jenkins and Kristian Fulton added three pass breaks between them to add to the playmaking on the unit.

In total, the Titans have a top-10 overall defensive DVOA rate and pressure rate despite facing a top-five toughest schedule of opposing offenses. I admit, I underrated this defense until this point. There's too much evidence to show that Mike Vrabel has elevated this unit to a level they can absolutely win big games with.

Especially with Henry's status still undetermined for the playoffs, now is a good time to jump on betting on the Titans to win the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Buffalo Bills are each highly flawed teams in their own right, and none are quite prepared to deal with a Henry-led Titans' offense if he can return for the playoffs.

Right now, the Titans are also a flawed team, but they are winning games, and that needs to count for something. Their odds might not get better at this point, so now is the time to jump on them. 

Photo: Getty Images