It seems early to say this, but the Tennessee Titans season may depend on what happens this weekend. At 5-5 it seems rather early to make such statements, but a loss this week puts them at least two games in the loss column behind both the division leader and the final Wild Card spot. It would also vault Indianapolis ahead of them in the division race. Sure, their Week 12 game at Chicago is certainly winnable, but on the back end of their bye they draw 7-3 Denver and 7-2 Kansas City. A loss this week and 6-8 becomes a real possibility. At that point, their season can be kissed goodbye, but in our game we are walking into championship week and the Titans draw lowly Jacksonville that week.
Running back Derrick Henry was drafted in the middle of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft. While his usage has been somewhat limited as a rookie, he was a highly productive player while at Alabama. In 2015 he saw more than 25 touches nine times, including a jaw dropping 90 touches in the final two regular season games. When Tennessee drafted the Alabama star it knew they were going to have to scale back on his workload his rookie year. The team had already acquired DeMarco Murray earlier in the offseason. He has clearly been the second fiddle through the first half of the season, but in the blowout win over Jacksonville in Week 8 we began to see the distribution shift as Henry had 20 touches to Murray’s 22. Henry was injured towards the end of that game (calf), so it appeared as though any momentum may be stunted. But in his first game back he saw 9 touches to Murray’s 19.
Are we at the point where will be a shift? No, absolutely not. Tennessee is chasing a playoff spot and is going to stick with its formula. However, the team is showing that Henry is a big part of those plans. If the season goes south over the next few games what incentive does Tennessee have to continue to feature the soon-to-be 29-year-old running back who only has $3 million guaranteed beyond this season? The team is clearly showing faith in the rookie, and will want to see what he can do as the lead option if the situation presents itself. As we come out of the worst of the bye weeks, owners certainly have some dead weight somewhere on their roster. You may never use Henry, but ideally you don’t use your bench options anyway. That said, wouldn’t it be nice to look at your options come championship week and see the starting back on a ground-oriented team facing Jacksonville? The path is there for it to happen, so get him now before the rush happens.