Derrick Henry’s Season-Altering Return Could Give the Titans a Shot in the Arm in the Crowded AFC Playoff Picture

The Tennessee Titans improved to 9-4 after a dominant victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14. Mike Vrabel’s squad has displayed resiliency throughout the season, especially after losing its best player. All-Pro running back Derrick Henry has a legitimate shot at returning to action for a potential playoff run. If the reports are accurate, the rest of the AFC could be in trouble.

Derrick Henry is on track to return by the playoffs

Titans RB Derrick Henry leaves the tunnel before a game
Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans takes the field before game against the Kansas City Chiefs | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans reportedly could be getting a much-needed boost on the offensive side of the ball.

According NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Derrick Henry is in line to return for the playoffs if Tennessee makes it. The Titans are on pace to reach the postseason, so this news comes at the perfect time.

Henry suffered a broken foot in the Week 8 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The team expected the 2-time Pro Bowler to miss the rest of the season but still hoped that he could return before the end of the season.

Per Rapoport’s report, Henry has made significant progress in the rehab process.

“From the initial injury to Super Wild Card Weekend is 11 weeks,” said Rapoport. “If Henry returns the week prior for the final game of the regular season, that would be 10 weeks. This injury that has an estimated recovery time of six to 10 weeks. So potentially, he may be back sooner.”

Henry’s offseason workout regimen is top-notch, so his potential return would come as no surprise.

The Titans are still leading the AFC South

After Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans move to 9-4 on the season. If the playoffs ended today, Tennessee would be the 2-seed in the AFC.

Head coach Mike Vrabel leads a physically and mentally tough football team. You shouldn’t expect anything less, given his career with the New England Patriots. His squad has battled adversity but still remains near the top of the conference.

Beyond Derrick Henry, the Titans have dealt with injuries to wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The offense has missed its three biggest playmakers at different points in the season, which has made life more challenging for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Somehow, this team has been able to weather the storm. The key to the maintained success is the fact that the Titans didn’t panic. Vrabel and company stuck to their identity. This is a run-heavy team. Tannehill airing it out all game is a recipe for disaster.

Tennessee is now 3-2 without Henry in the lineup. It has a very winnable four-game stretch to close out the regular season (Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, Texans).

There’s a path for the Titans to secure the No. 1 seed, which would make them extremely dangerous if Henry is back.

Henry would re-establish Tennessee at a legitimate AFC contender

Derrick Henry very well may be the most dominant player in the NFL regardless of position. The Tennessee Titans are in prime position for the playoffs and would get even stronger with their most valuable player back in the fold.

When Henry went down in Week 8, he led the league in rushing yards (937) and touchdowns (10). Even with five games missed, he still ranks fourth in both categories. That’s unreal and just speaks to how dominant he’s actually been.

The Titans have fielded a committee approach in Henry’s absence. While D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard have done an admirable job filling in, Mike Vrabel would love to get the 2020 Offensive Player of the Year back.

The Alabama product was well on his way to breaking more records in 2021. However, surely a deep playoff run would mean so much more to him.

If Henry returns at full strength, no one will want to see this team in the postseason. The offense is hard to stop with the bruising running back wearing defenders down all game. He’s built like a machine and truly does his best work late in games. Tennessee’s defense has improved as well, making for a more balanced effort.

There’s no guarantee that Derrick Henry would return to form and get his usual workload. But if he does, everybody better look out.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference 

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