The Tennessee Titans have certainly been here before.
After a 5-0 start and being on the verge of being able to punch their playoff ticket for weeks with the right scenarios, the Titans are once again in a familiar position of needing to win in Week 17 to reach the playoffs. This marks the fourth straight year the Titans have been in win-and-in Week 17 situations. They are 2-1 in previous games.
With a victory over the Houston Texans on the road this Sunday, the Titans would clinch the AFC South and host a playoff game for the first time since the 2008 season. Tennessee most likely would be the No. 4 seed. The Titans could still be a No. 3 seed if the Buffalo Bills lose tonight and again Sunday vs. Miami.
But after squandering an opportunity to win the division Sunday night at Green Bay, the Titans won't have the luxury to rest and be ready for the playoffs. They will have to find a way to win just to guarantee their spot in the postseason field. The Titans could still get in even with a loss, but that would require outside help from other teams.
“Rarely do you get a second opportunity at something, and I think that that's the message this week,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We get a second opportunity to go on the road win a game, win our 11th game, win the division, host a playoff game. We're gonna have to put everything we have into it and continue to work and continue to try to prepare and fix the things that cost you.”
Last year the Titans defeated the Texans, who sat quarterback Deshaun Watson, as Tennessee defeated Houston and clinched the No. 6 seed. The Titans went on to pull upset wins at New England and Baltimore to reach the AFC Championship Game where they lost to Kansas City.
Two years ago, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts and missed the playoffs in a win-and-in situation, with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota.
In 2017, the Titans benefitted from the Jacksonville Jaguars having already secured their playoff spot and won in the season finale to earn a postseason bid.
This time, Tennessee play a downtrodden Texans team that has nothing to play for except ruining the Titans' season.
Vrabel said the Titans' focus is on find some way to defeat the Texans to earn a last-ditch postseason bid yet again.
“I think every game is so critical in this league that whether you've been in that situation or not or whether you've been in play-in games before, every week is different. It'll be a new challenge. We all have to do a better job of coming in here and playing to our strengths and understanding how we have to play the football game,” Vrabel said. “We're going to another opportunity at it, and that's the message over and over. We didn't take advantage of the opportunity on Sunday night, but I'm confident that we'll do it next Sunday.”