The Tennessee Titans will enter the divisional round of the NFL playoffs next week healthier and fresher possibly than they’ve been all season.
The cherry on top is Tennessee will have had two weeks to prepare for either the Cincinnati Bengals, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Titans are 8-0 under head coach Mike Vrabel when they’ve had at least nine days to prepare for an opponent. They’re 2-0 in such games this season — a 20-0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 12 and a 34-3 win over the Miami Dolphins on Jan. 2.
“I definitely don’t think it’s a fluke,” safety Kevin Byard said, via John Glennon of SI.com. “I do think that the way [Vrabel] prepares us every week — whether it’s how many days we practice, how long we’re on the field, everything like that — I’m sure all that factors into the whole equation.”
Added Vrabel: “We feel like we have a good balance of getting work done and then also trying to get guys recovered and get them some of the things they need. We will continue to look at that and see what it is and see how much we are out on the field. … Where we don’t have an idea of who we are playing, our players can focus on themselves and our team and what they need to do specifically to try to continue to win.”
In those eight games of long rest, the Titans have outscored opponents 237-87 with an average margin of victory of 18.8 points, which includes two shutouts.
In such games, the Titans have outgained opponents 350 to 309 yards per game, turned the ball over just five times compared to 16 turnovers from the opposition, and they’ve scored on 70.1 percent of their trips to the red zone (22 of 31).
For comparison, the Titans had a red-zone scoring percentage of 63.9 this season, fifth-best in the NFL.
Perhaps no team needed the extra rest more heading into the postseason than Tennessee.
Running back Derrick Henry, who’s a little over two months removed from foot surgery, is on track to play in his first game since Oct. 31. Receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, who’ve missed seven and four games, respectively, should be as close to 100 percent as they were for the season opener, and the team has no current active roster players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
“We have been fighting that the whole year, just guys in and out of the lineup,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Now finally starting to get healthy, get some guys back and get some consistency with guys playing multiple games in a row and finding our groove there. It has been huge for us as we have come down this stretch, and I believe we are going to take advantage of it this week to have some time to continue to get healthy and get ready to go for next week.
“… At the end of the day, a bye week can be great for you if you take advantage of it in the right way. … I think that is our mindset as a team is to take advantage of this time, and then once we know who we are playing and can fully come to work next week and go all in, we are going to do that and be excited to go win one game.”
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