NFL Insider Remarks: Titans Reverse and Take Control of AFC South, Starting Up and More from Week 12


Last Sunday afternoon at about 3:30 a.m., the winding Titans were lifeguards. The Ravens strangled them, they seemed to be making 5-1 to 5-5, and their injury situation was quite bleak.

Oh, what a difference a week.

At 14:30 on Sunday, the Colts led by a 21-point lead at halftime, which seemed more like 40 points, and Indianapolis couldn’t slow down Derrick Henry, let alone embody it, all of a sudden the Titans sat as pretty as they could. AFC. They avoided the Colts ’sweep, won two huge road conference victories that could have huge consequences in the offseason, and now look like the team to be defeated in the AFC South.

It’s very wild to think about how volatile the Titans seemed when the third quarter ended in Baltimore last week. Henry ran 17 times just 54 yards and had important issues defending the Titans, which lacked their only real pass (Jadaveon Clowney) and best corner (Adoree Jackson) after Tennessee had already lost Pro Bowl left-hand gear this season. It looked a bit like Tennessee was going to throw a fourth game in five games.

I still have questions about whether this team can withstand the defense against the Chiefs, Steelers or the Bills, but the last eight days have given them an absolutely huge playoff. Timing is everything, so they say, and Tennessee caught the Ravens the day their two best runners – Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams – were out, which became a key factor in the fourth quarter and overtime. And on Sunday, they caught the Colts without their two best defensive teams – DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry – and used Henrik like a hammer to quickly escape with this game.

After a slow start in Baltimore, Henry finished the game with 89 yards, a touchdown, and two Herculeans ran in his last 10 rushes. And in Indianapolis, Henry ran 140 yards and three more touchdowns 17 times in the first half. So in just over three-quarters of the work (plus an overtime drive), Henry accumulated 229 rushing yards on 27 barrels (8.48 yards per barrel!) With four taps.

Henry loves November; when he does his best work. You could say Henry SZN, and along the line of attack, they may need every little detail with more damage. AJ Brown also dominated in the first half, and the Colts’ defense seemed lost without being anchored to the front.

Would Henry have been able to run free if the Colts had not made such a compromise? We’ll never find out, but their first meeting a few weeks ago had a completely different outcome. Pass play has struggled with roughly over 200 yards since losing Taylor Lewan, but when he runs the ball like that, it doesn’t matter most of the time.

In addition to the 6-3 conference record and the 3-1 division record, as well as the Members and Lions still in play, the Titans up to 10 wins sit pretty nicely for the tiebreaker, and a bunch of key-head-to-head wins over Cleveland next week (the Bills- et already beat). They return to the playoffs.

It rose upwards

What are we doing now with the Browns, Raiders and Cardinals?

Three franchises, mostly the same as the losses of the past decade (or in some cases more), all gave rise to great suspicion after a rather brutal 12th week. Yes, the Browns have won, hardly, against the unfortunate Jags (and without Myles Garrett), but this game had no business proximity, and Cleveland has interesting offseason discussions about Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield looked lost playing against a defense that was basically lost all season. There was a routine lack of open receivers in the third down and critical order in the end zone. It was really so ugly. Coach Kevin Stefanski knows he’s in a circle and has to move around to do anything in the air (reading a half-track seems to be the best bet), but that won’t cut him off against real teams in January.

The running game is good enough to get into an expanded post-season field, I think, but Mayfield is a problem. I missed a simple short pass that would have taken the game. It never seemed comfortable, and it happened too often this season. It took all 207 yards to win this game. Not a good sign.

When I finally completely bought the Raiders attack, they return to the brand. Five turnovers in three quarters? Check? Ridiculously rough passes arrive very late? Check? A completely unnecessary rough kick penalty at a critical stage of the game? You can be sure. Side selection between player and coach? Bingo. Breathtaking six? Yeah, that too. It’s hard to think a little about their psyche after giving one to the Chiefs last week – they got so close to a sweep – and then being destroyed by the Falcons to fall 6-5.

The cardinals also seem to have reached a crisis of confidence. Kyler Murray has been away recently and is almost not led enough as the crime seems narrow and conservative. The Cardinals suffered a last-minute loss against the Patriots – a day when New England had no harm – this could return to haunt them with a critical encounter with Ram.

Anyway, all three teams can get into the playoffs. But I definitely have reservations.

Additional insider notes

  • I don’t see Anthony Lynn getting to 2021 as the Chargers coach. More game management and clock management issues, a weird decision to drop around the midfield at the end of the first half, and some game-driving craze at the end of the game – nothing works. They’re great at finding ways to lose games, and there’s something that needs to change. They can’t sell this next year.
  • Every week it becomes clear that the Jets are talking about that 0-16 action. The crime is a complete disaster. The problem is that Sam Darnold also seems pretty hurt. The crime had several lives with Joe Flacco. Darnold doesn’t see the field well and doesn’t perform, and his commercial value could actually drop by the end of the season.
  • Mike Gesicki does show up, but I’m still skeptical of dolphins. They won ugly on Sunday, but Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t be left with a charm and can’t play with the Jets every week.
  • Another week when Raheem Morris’s candidacy to keep the Falcon head coaching work is gaining steam.
  • Is Tireek Hill going 200 yards in the first quarter? Really? Give that MVP to Patrick Mahomes.
  • Bucs continues to commit a crime that doesn’t match Tom Brady at all. They are almost averse to accepting the on-screen game or intermediate routes where they have the best chance of winning. The anger grows down there, and this story doesn’t go away, especially as Bruce Arians continues to make a home industry from tearing Brady out in public.
  • Broncos, who has a strange show attack, is by no means ideal and doesn’t look his best as a regular season NFL game without an actual QB, but it’s 2020, all nuts, and that’s how it goes. If they’re going to play all season and in the playoffs, we probably won’t see this for the last time.