Embracing road warrior mentality why Titans go to KC next

Mon Jan 13 3:15pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer

In this Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) breaks away for a 53-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game, in Houston. The top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2) bring a 12-game winning streak and the most productive offense in the NFL into Saturday's AFC playoff game against the Titans (10-7), who advanced by beating New England 20-13 last week. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, File)


Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates his touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. The Titans won 28-12. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Baltimore Ravens strong safety Chuck Clark (36) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin (80) misses the catch on a two-point conversion against Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Baltimore Ravens strong safety Chuck Clark (36) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel made it clear before flying to Houston needing to win their regular-season finale that the Titans would have to be road warriors to keep this season alive.

They've done just that, winning three straight, with each win bigger than the last, to reach the franchise's first AFC championship game since the 2002 season. Their formula is simple: The Titans dominate with the NFL's rushing leader running like no one in league history, and with a stingy defense.

“It was an easy path," Vrabel said Monday. “They didn't have to worry about if we were going to be home or anything else.”

That said, the Titans (11-7) have taken a challenging path trying to become the first sixth seed to reach a Super Bowl since the Green Bay Packers in 2010. They knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion in New England and followed up by stunning the team with the team with the NFL's best record in Baltimore 28-12.

Now they have to go to Kansas City, the No. 2 seed with the 2018 NFL MVP in Patrick Mahomes on Sunday in the franchise's third AFC championship game since moving to Tennessee, and fifth all time. The Titans are 7-3 on the road counting both the regular season and playoffs.

“We knew our situation started in Houston and our playoffs started then. We had to win,” center Ben Jones said. “All we can focus on is this week. So this is a big one for us, and we just got to take care of this week.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Derrick Henry, aka El Tractorcito, was impressive in the regular season, leading the league with 1,540 yards rushing. Now Henry and the Titans are making NFL history and punishing defenses.

Nobody had ever run for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games before Henry. He has strung together games with 211 yards in the regular-season finale at Houston and followed that by setting the franchise postseason rushing record with 182 yards against New England, then 195 against Baltimore, which had been the NFL's fifth-best rushing defense.

The Titans set a postseason record with 217 yards rushing in Baltimore, having topped 200 yards in each playoff game. The offensive plan might be tweaked against the Chiefs, but the recipe is simply keep giving Henry the ball. He'll even throw a touchdown pass if needed.

“He's an amazing player, and we knew he had it in him," Jones said of Henry. “Our thing is just don't let it end now.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

This really feels like nitpicking here with the Titans coming off big wins. But at some point the Titans will have to throw for more than 83 yards to win in the playoffs. That said, Ryan Tannehill does have three TD passes, and he has been sacked only twice with one interception. He also has used his legs, running for a touchdown against the Ravens.

STOCK UP

Four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey turned in simply his best game yet with his first two postseason sacks against Baltimore, including a forced fumble. He also had a tackle for loss with two quarterback hits and four tackles. Now one of the defensive captains, the nine-year veteran will be playing in his first AFC championship game.

“Definitely an amazing feeling,” Casey said. “Can't ask the Lord for nothing else but to be able to play in the NFL and play in these type of moments and these type of games.”

STOCK DOWN

The Titans brought Darius Jennings back in late December after he averaged an NFL-best 31.7 yards on kickoff returns in 2018 for Tennessee, a franchise record. But he is averaging only 20 yards this postseason with a long of 22. The Titans had an average start at their 20 on three kickoffs in the divisional win.

INJURED

Starting linebacker Jayon Brown's shoulder kept him out of the divisional game. Wide receiver Adam Humphries has missed six straight with an ankle, but Tennessee hasn't missed him through this stretch.

KEY NUMBER

0 - The number of field goals Greg Joseph, the Titans' fourth kicker of the season, has attempted in his four games since being signed.

NEXT STEPS

Win another playoff game in Kansas City and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1999 season.

Player Notes
Kenny Golladay Sep 25 12:50am ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday but is in line to make his season debut in Week 3 against the Cardinals. Golladay suffered a strained hamstring in practice on Sept. 9 and has missed the first two games of the season. Normally a pretty solid WR1 option for fantasy lineups, the Lions No. 1 wideout will carry a bit more risk with him if he makes his 2020 debut this weekend. Plus, Golladay will likely be covered by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, which won't be an easy task by any means. You're probably starting Golladay if he's active, but it might be wise to temper expectations a bit. If he's back, it'll be bad news for Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Sep 25 12:40am ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) missed his second straight practice on Thursday. It's not a good sign for the 23-year-old after he missed the Week 2 game. Brown will need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at suiting up this Sunday against the Vikings. Have a backup plan in place if you own him. Corey Davis will be worth flex consideration if Brown misses another game, Adam Humphries would have some sleeper potential in DFS and deeper leagues, and tight end Jonnu Smith would have real TE1 appeal after going for four catches, 84 yards and two touchdowns without Brown in the lineup last weekend.

From RotoBaller

Laviska Shenault Jr. Sep 25 12:30am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was a popular pick to have a breakout game against the Dolphins in Week 3, but it didn't happen, as he finished with just 33 receiving yards. Shenault did record five receptions, but with his usage mainly coming in the short-yardage passing, Shenault didn't have the chance to do much with the opportunities he received. Moving forward, Shenault is a low-ceiling fantasy option until we actually see him used in a way that offers a chance for him to produce more than just a handful of yards.

From RotoBaller

Chris Thompson Sep 25 12:20am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Thompson continued to see his role expand on Thursday night, catching five passes for 35 yards and adding three rushing yards on two carries. Thompson isn't the same receiving threat that he was in Washington, but he's becoming a larger part of things for the Jaguars. That doesn't mean you need to rush out and put him in your fantasy lineups moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on what Thompson does in Week 4 against the Bengals.

From RotoBaller

Keelan Cole Sep 25 12:10am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught four passes for 43 yards in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was Cole's first game this year without a touchdown. Thursday showed us what Cole's floor this year likely looks like: a handful of catches with an average of around 10 yards per reception. You'll take that in deeper leagues, but he's likely just a tad too inconsistent to be a weekly start in 12-team leagues, especially when you consider this was a matchup that felt ripe for the taking for the Jaguars passing game and they responded with their worst offensive output of the season.

From RotoBaller

Chris Conley Sep 25 12:10am ET

With D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) out, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley was a popular pick to see an expanded role on Thursday night. And he did, as he led the team in targets with eight. The problem? Drops and some poor positioning led to Conley catching just three of those passes for 34 yards. This was his chance to impress and show he deserved a larger role, and it just didn't happen. Conley's on the fringes of rosterability in season-long leagues at this point, with his value fully dependent on Chark missing more time.

From RotoBaller

James Robinson Sep 25 12:00am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson was the only consistent source of production in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. The undrafted rookie ran the ball 11 times, finishing with 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also led the team in receptions, catching six of them for 83 yards. Robinson might be the only player who can be a weekly starter on this offense right now and should be considered a fantasy RB2 going forward. Even when the Jaguars offense looks like a train wreck, Robinson manages to get his numbers.

From RotoBaller

Gardner Minshew II Sep 24 11:50pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't supposed to be blown out by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, but they were, as the Dolphins took the 31-13 victory. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II struggled all night, going 30-for-42 for 275 yards with no touchdowns while throwing an interception and narrowly avoiding throwing a second. He also added 22 yards on the ground. Minshew was a huge disappointment to fantasy managers, and now we have reason to doubt the mustached passer, who we thought was on his way to being a consistent fantasy QB2.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Sep 24 11:30pm ET

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has his most formidable challenge of the 2020 season thus far against the Chiefs on Monday night. The third-year signal-caller has played relatively well against Kansas City throughout his career (two games), throwing for 414 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 22 carries for 113 yards and an additional score. While his previous performances against the squad doesn't guarantee a similar output, it is reasonable to assume that fantasy managers may see the same type of production once again. In case there was any doubt, keep him starting in all formats.

From RotoBaller

Drew Sample Sep 24 11:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample caught seven of his nine targets for 45 yards against the Browns in Week 2. Although it's unlikely that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow will throw 61 passes against the Eagles as he did against Cleveland, the sophomore will likely be in line for an uptick in production after Cincy lost C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. While Sample probably can't be depended on for consistent production moving ahead, he is a suitable dart throw for those in need of a tight end in Week 3 and the remainder of the year.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Sep 24 11:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has racked up 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown throughout his first two games of the year. With A.J. Green back in the mix after missing some time due to injury, concerns emerged as to whether or not Boyd would be able to produce a third-straight 1,000-yard season. Nonetheless, as the 25-year-old builds a familiar rapport with rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow, the door could open for an uptick in fantasy production moving head. While Green, John Ross III, and Tee Higgins will also be looking for Burrow's attention, Boyd may emerge as the undisputed No. 1 wideout for the team from a production standpoint. As far as his Week 3 outlook against the Eagles, fantasy managers should keep him starting, regardless of format.

From RotoBaller

Joshua Kelley Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley continues to get work as the No. 2 running back. Kelley received 52% of the snaps out of the backfield and 23 carries compared to the 16 that starter Austin Ekeler got. Kelley has now recorded 124 rushing yards on 35 attempts and has scored one touchdown in two games. He has also chipped in with a pair of catches for 49 yards. The Chargers have a favorable matchup against a Panthers Defense that has given up the sixth most points per game this season. Kelley is a solid option at the flex position for managers in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Keenan Allen Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen will look to build off of a strong Week 2 outing in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers. Allen was a beneficiary of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert drawing the last minute start over Tyrod Taylor (chest) this past Sunday. Allen capitalized by hauling in seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards. The Panthers Defense is 10th in the league in allowing the fewest receiving yards per game, but that same defense has allowed 32.5 points per game this year and that would increase the odds of Allen getting a chance for his first touchdown. Allen should be considered a low-end WR2 in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Sep 24 11:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry has been off to a hot start in 2020, but will have a tough challenge against the Panthers in Week 3. Henry has been one of the better options at a tough position and most importantly has looked healthy in two games. The Panthers have been successful in shutting down the tight end position thus far and have held Darren Waller, Jason Witten, O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski to just eight catches and 58 yards over the first two weeks. Henry should still be considered a TE1, but this will be his toughest test so far this season.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Sep 24 10:50pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green hasn't had the most spectacular 2020 campaign but will attempt to get on track against Philadelphia in Week 3. Despite being targeted 22 times by rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow throughout the first two games of the year, the veteran has hauled in only eight of them for an unimpressive 80 yards. After having not played for nearly two years due to injury, the 32-year-old may have needed a game or two to get rid of any residual rust. While many are likely apprehensive about starting him against the Eagles due to his underwhelming play thus far, he has done enough throughout his career to earn another start or two before fantasy managers decide whether or not to pull the plug. For now, keep him starting.

From RotoBaller

Austin Ekeler Sep 24 10:50pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will look to continue his strong season with a matchup against the Panthers in Week 3. Ekeler has been sharing work with rookie Joshua Kelley and received 56% of the snaps in Week 2. Kelley also got a big chunk at 52% last Sunday. The backfield has worked out well so far for fantasy managers and Ekeler should be considered a low-end RB1 against a defense that is allowing 127.5 yards per game and 32.5 points. Ekeler has rushed for 177 yards on the season with five receptions for 58 yards.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Sep 24 10:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to get things going against Philadelphia on Sunday. The 24-year-old has been a colossal disappointment through the first two games of the year, racking up an underwhelming 115 yards off of 35 attempts for a miserable 3.3 YPC. He has also hauled in just five catches for 42 yards. The former Sooner isn't a stranger to slow starts, especially since he didn't score on the ground until Week 11 of the 2019 campaign. Although Mixon hasn't done much to earn the trust of fantasy managers, there aren't many options with an upside as high as his. Keep him starting in all formats against the Eagles in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Sep 24 10:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will look to keep things on track in Week 3 against the Eagles. The rookie has had an impressive inaugural season, throwing for 509 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception throughout his first two games. He has also racked up 65 yards and an additional score on 15 attempts on the ground. The 23-year-old has displayed maturity and game-management skills well beyond his years. Although he may have a few rough performances over the team's next 14 games, fantasy managers, especially in deep, Superflex leagues, shouldn't hesitate to roll with Burrow against Philadelphia on Sunday as the upside is certainly there.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Sep 24 9:40pm ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense is a solid fantasy option for their Week 3 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Washington's offense has not been very potent through two weeks, scoring 42 total points and while allowing seven sacks and committing two turnovers. Cleveland is installed as a seven-point home favorite in a game that could be rather low-scoring. Fire up the Browns defense as a top-10 fantasy option for Week 3.

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Leon Jacobs Sep 24 9:03pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars LB Leon Jacobs (knee) suffered a knee injury during the Week 3 game and has been ruled out.

From TheHuddle