Just two weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans fell out of first place in the AFC South and were clinging to a wild card spot for dear life.
But after Sunday’s 45-26 win over the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Titans (8-3) find themselves with sole possession of the division lead and the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff race, just ahead of the Buffalo Bills, who the Titans own a tiebreaker over based on head-to-head win percentage.
It was also Tennessee’s second straight road win after dropping three of its previous four games.
“We were playing for first place; we were going on the road,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We knew it was a tough place to play. We played them 17 days ago and we knew it was going to be a challenge to start fast and finish stronger. Give the Colts a lot of credit. They have played extremely well in the second half of football games. It’s a testament to them and their team. Just proud of the way that our guys finished, though.”
“It was a big win for us,” added quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 221 yards and a touchdown. “We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game. We have a ton of respect for [the Colts] and the way they like to play. We knew we were going to have to play a four-quarter game, come out, start fast and be able to finish strong. So, being able to start the game the way we did was huge. And we did enough down the stretch to seal it off.”
Tennessee and Indianapolis split the season series, with each team winning away from its home stadium. But the Titans’ 6-3 conference record gives them the tiebreaker, if needed, over the Colts, who sport a 3-4 conference record.
The Titans now have an 87 percent chance of winning the AFC South, per data analysis website FiveThirtyEight, and a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs.
“It’s always tough to win on the road,” Titans receiver A.J. Brown said. “Obviously, that’s a really good team over there. It definitely says a lot, though, but we know that’s not what we are trying to do. We still have a long road ahead. It’s week-to-week. We’re trying to be 1-0 every week, no matter if we’re playing home or away.”
With just five games left, Tennessee is in prime position to finish out the year strongly and potentially win the division for the first time since 2008. The Titans’ last five opponents have a combined 25-30 record, with that quintet including AFC South rivals Jacksonville and Houston.
Even better news for the Titans is running back Derrick Henry thrives in the final month of the regular season. Last season, he ran for 549 yards and six touchdowns in December, and in 2018, he ran for another 625 yards and eight scores. He also has notched at least one 200-yard, multi-touchdown game in December in each of the last two years as well.
“We beat the Ravens and the Colts on the road back-to-back weeks; I think that’s a start in the right direction,” Vrabel added. “We have to continue to build on that and come back home for a very good opponent (the Cleveland Browns) with a lot of weapons, somebody we don’t know quite as well maybe.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_