In his final regular-season power rankings, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com acknowledged he had underestimated the Tennessee Titans in a big way going into the regular season, listing them 21st prior to the first game.
Prisco was hardly alone, however, in forecasting the Titans as one of the mediocre clubs heading into the season.
A quick spin through some other preseason power rankings found these results for the Titans: ESPN (9th), NFL.com (11th), Pro Football Focus (12th), Pro Football Talk (13th), Sporting News (13th), The Ringer (15th) and SI.com (17th).
More than four months later, Tennessee (12-5) is the AFC’s No. 1 seed and has the conference’s only bye this weekend as the playoffs get underway.
So how do those outlets see the Titans now among the 14 teams vying for a Super Bowl victory?
We rounded up some prominent pre-playoff power rankings to find out, though it’s fair to say the Titans themselves aren’t overly concerned that forecasters see them as unlikely to win it all. None of the seven sites listed below ranked them any higher than third among playoff teams, and one ranked Tennessee as low as eighth.
“We just have to make sure we’re really locked in and focused to make sure we’re not getting caught up in all the …. hype that’s going to be around being the one seed, and all the talk,” safety Kevin Byard said. “People going to be saying (we’re) the worst one seed here and there. None of that stuff really matters. I think, like (coach Mike Vrabel) said, `It’s interesting, but it doesn’t really matter.’”
Here’s a look at where the Titans stand in the pre-playoff power rankings of seven prominent sites:
Ranking: 4th, behind Green Bay, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
Comment: “Mike Vrabel’s team is resilient. How many of us wrote off the Titans after Derrick Henry’s injury at midseason? But it wasn’t just Henry. The Titans navigated injuries to other key players like receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, and left tackle Taylor Lewan, and survived the mess that was the AFC this year to finish as the No. 1 seed.”
Ranking: 3rd, behind Green Bay and Tampa Bay.
Comment: “They earned the top spot in the AFC, so the playoffs go through Nashville. And it might mean trying to beat a Titans team with Derrick Henry back carrying them.”
Ranking: 7th, behind: Green Bay, Kansas City, Buffalo and Tampa Bay (tied), Los Angeles Rams and Dallas.
Comment: “The Titans are the AFC’s top seed, but our voters aren’t fully convinced. All eyes are on Derrick Henry, and the possibility he could be back after the bye week.”
Ranking: 4th, behind Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
Comment: “Tennessee took care of business (in the regular-season finale). Ryan Tannehill tied a career high with four touchdown passes and escaped trouble on a crucial third down in the fourth quarter to deliver one of the biggest completions of the year. It was the kind of performance we didn't see enough of from Tannehill during the regular season, but the veteran quarterback enters the playoffs fully battle-tested and with a full complement of weapons at his disposal. It's hard to overstate the importance of a first-round bye: While the rest of the Super Bowl contenders in the AFC battle it out for survival, the Titans get to sit back, rest up ... and wait. They've already advanced.”
PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS
Ranking: 8th, behind: Kansas City, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, Dallas and New England.
Comment: “The Titans earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC by virtue of defeating teams like Buffalo and Kansas City early in the season and upsetting the 49ers on Thursday Night Football after falling behind 10-0 at halftime. The bye week will mean a lot to this team, as they will be able to rest A.J. Brown and Julio Jones and get Derrick Henry back to help Ryan Tannehill, who has graded better than his 89.6 NFL passer rating this year.”
PRO FOOTBALL TALK
Ranking: 3rd, behind: Green Bay and Tampa Bay.
Comment: “Derrick Henry is healthy and, more importantly, fresh.”
Ranking: 4th, behind: Green Bay, Kansas City, Tampa Bay
Comment: “The Titans have seen Ryan Tannehill break out of his passing slump tied to having legitimate wide receivers in A.J. Brown and Julio Jones back healthy and making key plays. Now there might be big-time help on the way in the form of Derrick Henry hammering once again in the power running game to further facilitate what can be an explosive offense. Tennessee also likes to get very physical with Mike Vrabel and plays terrific situational football. Key early wins over the Chiefs and Bills also cannot be forgotten, or the sneaky home-field edge the Titans can have with their loud crowd.”