The Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins are both still in the playoff hunt as Week 16 in the NFL is set to get underway. If you’ve had a chance to see either team play this season, that revelation may come as a surprise. The struggles have certainly been evident.
With that being said, the Titans (8-6) have won three in a row, the last two in impressive fashion. Last week they went into MetLife Stadium and shutout the Giants 17-0. It was the first shutout for Tennessee since Dec. 25, 2000, which was against another NFC East team, the Dallas Cowboys.
While things are looking up for the Titans the outlook isn't as rosy for the Redskins. Sure, 32-year-old journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson managed to lead the team to a 16-13 victory over a less-than-stellar Jacksonville team, but Washington's offensive struggles continued to be on display.
At 7-7 the Redskins are still technically in the wild-card hunt in the NFC but the Titans seem to be in better position to find a way into the playoffs. Saturday's matchup will go a long ways towards determining which team will keep its postseason hopes alive heading into Week 17.
Washington at Tennessee
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 22 at 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Tennessee -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Former Alabama players go head-to-head
Over the last two weeks, the Titans finally decided to commit to former second-round pick Derrick Henry as their workhorse. And all he's done is respond with 408 rushing yards (franchise record) and six touchdowns on 50 carries in the past two games.
The Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama will be going against several former teammates on Saturday. Washington has used back-to-back first-round picks in the last two years to select former Crimson Tide defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Redskins also have former Alabama linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton (sixth-round pick in 2018) and Ryan Anderson (second, '17), as well as safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was acquired via trade with Green Bay, on the roster. Allen's and Payne's presence up front has helped Washington improve from the NFL's worst rushing defense in 2017 to 18th this season. So which Tide standout will fare better in this matchup?
2. The Titans’ secondary without Logan Ryan
Tennessee has brought in a former New England Patriots cornerback in each of the last two offseasons. While Malcolm Butler hasn’t been the signing that some had hoped for, Ryan has been everything the Titans could’ve expected.
Unfortunately, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound defensive back’s season is over after he broke his leg against the Giants.
As of right now, third-year player LeShaun Sims seems like the logical choice to replace Ryan. He’s made seven starts in three seasons with the Titans and played in 40 total games during that span. With Jamison Crowder starting to look healthy, Tennessee is going to need to be wary of who lines up across the Redskins' best slot receiver.
3. Josh Johnson’s success — or lack thereof
Johnson’s story has been one of the most interesting in the NFL this season. The 32-year-old quarterback had not attempted a pass in the league since 2011, and his last game action was as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals in '13.
The Redskins’ unfortunate luck with quarterback injuries – including Alex Smith and Colt McCoy – forced the team to sign Johnson off the streets. Since then, he’s actually performed pretty well all things considered. The journeyman has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 94 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
He struggled last week against Jacksonville's talented defense, getting sacked three times and fumbling the ball away once (Washington recovered). But he also finished with 200 total yards (151, passing, 49 rushing) and threw the game's only touchdown pass.
Tennessee is statistically similar to the Jaguars on defense and has allowed a total of nine points its last two games. Johnson will have his work cut out for him again and he will need to find a way to make some plays.
Tennessee is favored by 10 points over Washington in this game. Considering it’s the NFL, that may seem like a lot. But don’t be surprised if the Titans cover that spread and more.
The Redskins are going to struggle to find any sort of consistent offensive success against a Tennessee defense that is littered with young, ascending talent. Will Josh Johnson’s legs be enough to lead to at least a scoring drive or two? It’s possible, but expecting touchdowns is asking too much.
As much as the Titans are favored, the over/under is still only 37 points. With the offensive success only coming from one team, that still seems to be a little much -- especially when you consider that 12 of Washington’s last 18 games have gone under.
Prediction: Titans 23, Redskins 6
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.