NFL Playoffs: When Was the Last Time the Tennessee Titans Were the No. 1 Seed in the AFC?
The NFL is just days away from the kickoff of Super Wild Card Weekend. The Tennessee Titans will have the luxury of being spectators this week, as they earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Mike Vrabel’s squad gets a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs.
The Titans have reached the postseason in four of the last five seasons. But how long has it been since they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC?
The last time the Titans were the AFC’s No. 1 seed was in 2008
It’s been 13 years since the Tennessee Titans secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed. They last accomplished the feat in 2008.
After winning the AFC South title, Tennessee finished the 2008 season with a 13-3 record. Head coach Jeff Fisher’s squad secured a first-round bye. Unfortunately, it ran into the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round.
The Titans posted the league’s best record, but they couldn’t get the job done in the playoffs.
It was tough-sledding for Tennessee in the years that followed the disappointing 2008 finish. The Titans endured an eight-year playoff drought before returning to the postseason in 2017.
Since then, this has been one of the more consistent franchises in the AFC. The 2021 version hopes it will fare better in the NFL playoffs than the 2008 team.
How the 2021 Titans stack up with the 2008 team
Although the 2008 Tennessee Titans finished with the best record in the NFL, they probably overachieved that season.
The offense was a pretty average unit, finishing 15th in total offense. Kerry Collins was under center. At 36 years old, he was more of a game manager at that stage of his career. The rushing attack was far more potent, led by the one-two punch of Chris Johnson and LenDale White.
Johnson and White combined for 2,001 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Together, they brought a good combination of speed and power. The offense lacked elite receiving options, though. No pass-catcher had more than 60 receptions or 700 receiving yards.
Tennessee’s defense was its strength in 2008. The Titans boasted the second-ranked defense, allowing just 293.6 yards and 14.6 points per game. Keith Bulluck, Albert Haynesworth, and Michael Griffin led the charge defensively.
When assessing the 2021 team, some similarities stick out. Tennessee has a top-10 defense that bends but doesn’t break too often. The Titans are also a run-first football team. Even without Derrick Henry, the offense established an efficient running game. Henry is the most dominant running back in the NFL. His speed and power combine some of the strengths of Johnson and White.
The Titans also don’t have an elite quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is more than capable of making plays, though, especially in the play action. He has more talented receivers at his disposal in A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
Mike Vrabel’s crew has the potential to go further than Jeff Fisher’s did in 2008.
Who should Tennessee want to play in the Divisional Round?
The Titans are sitting atop the AFC. With the NFL playoff format increasing to seven teams, Tennessee is the only squad in the AFC with a first-round bye.
The AFC South champions will watch the games during Wild Card Weekend and get a jump on their potential opponents for the Divisional Round.
Who should the Titans want to face in the second round, though?
Since Tennessee holds the top seed, they would play the lowest remaining seed in the AFC. Mike Vrabel and company will likely square off with the Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, or Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Titans have already faced the Steelers and Patriots in the regular season, losing to both teams in the second half of the season. They match up better with Pittsburgh, though.
The Steelers have offensive line issues, and Ben Roethlisberger is no longer a quarterback who strikes fear in the hearts and minds of opposing defenses. The defense has given up the most rushing yards in 2021, which would spell trouble against Tennessee.
The Raiders could also be a prime matchup for the Titans. Las Vegas doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well. Their pass rush could cause some problems for Ryan Tannehill, but the Raiders won’t be able to stop Derrick Henry if he plays.
New England wouldn’t be an ideal matchup, but it’s a realistic one, considering Las Vegas and Pittsburgh got tough draws in the Wild Card Round.
Tennessee has looked beatable at times, but all bets are off if King Henry comes back 100%.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.