NFL Week 18 Power Rankings: Titans will be tough out, especially with Derrick Henry returning; Cowboys plummet

NFL Week 18 Power Rankings: Titans will be tough out, especially with Derrick Henry returning; Cowboys plummet

In mid-November, the Tennessee Titans were 8-2 and were the top seed in the AFC. They looked to be on their way to earning that spot, despite having lost running back Derrick Henry in late October.

But then things went bad. They lost three of four games, including a bad home loss to the Houston Texans and a blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots. Things looked bleak as their playoff hopes were being jeopardized and the No. 1 seed seemed like a real long shot.

Fast forward to today. The Titans are currently the top seed in the AFC and need only to beat the Texans this week in Houston to claim that and get the first-round playoff bye. If they do get the extra week, there is a great chance they could have Henry back for the playoffs. (He returned to practice Wednesday.)

The Titans regrouped the past two weeks to beat the San Francisco 49ers at home and the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday. Their toughness was on display in both games, which we’ve come to expect from this team.

They’ve taken on the mentality of coach Mike Vrabel, who just might be the Coach of the Year. They will play tough, physical defense and pound the football. They’ve navigated through the Henry injury, several others on the offensive line and their receiving group has been in and out all year. They’ve played so many players this year you can hardly keep track.

There are still doubts as to whether the Titans can pass the football well enough in the playoffs to win it all. Ryan Tannehill can be streaky, but if the run game works he is more than capable of leading them to a Super Bowl.

The Titans are sixth in my Power Rankings this week in large part because I give both the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills an edge because of their quarterbacks. But it’s hard to discount what the Titans have done in getting back to the top seed.

Two weeks ago, they looked like they were dominated early against the 49ers, but an end-zone interception prevented San Francisco from going up 14-0. The Titans bounced back after that with their characteristic toughness to win it.

The question now is whether that toughness — which put them on the threshold of the Super Bowl in 2019, only to lose in the AFC Championship Game — can carry them to a title this year. If Henry comes back, it’s entirely possible.

When you see the resilience of this group, it’s hard to doubt them. The Titans will maul you and try and turn any game into a fight, which is their way and will make them a tough out come playoff time. 

Biggest Movers








They’ve locked up the top seed behind Aaron Rodgers, who is likely winning the MVP. It’s time Matt LaFleur gets his due for outstanding coaching. 13-3-0



They found a way to win at Baltimore, but it wasn’t pretty. Matt Stafford has made some bad throws the past two weeks. He has to clean that up. 2 12-4-0



Winning late against the Jets isn’t a good look. The defense just isn’t as good as a year ago. They need to get guys back and not having Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown will hurt come playoff time. 2 12-4-0



It took them a while to get rolling against the Falcons, but they did so in the second half. If they beat the Jets this week, they win the AFC East. 2 10-6-0



Losing to the Bengals in a shootout drops them out of the top spot in the AFC. The defense had a rough day. 3 11-5-0



They are back in the top spot of the AFC for now after beating the Dolphins. If they beat the Texans on Sunday, the playoffs go through Nashville. 1 11-5-0



Their offense has them as division champs after beating the Chiefs in a shootout last week. Joe Burrow is on fire. 1 10-6-0



In classic Bill Belichick fashion, they bounced back at home after a loss by dominating the Jaguars. They can still win the division, but it’s not likely. 2 10-6-0



Winning at Dallas to snap a three-game losing streak was impressive. The defense was outstanding. 2 11-5-0



What has happened to the offense? Dak Prescott, aside from one game in the past month, just hasn’t looked right. 7 11-5-0



If they beat the Raiders this week, they are in the playoffs. They beat up on a depleted Broncos team to put them in that situation. 1 9-7-0



That was a big-time road victory over the Colts. They win this week against the Chargers and they are in. It’s that simple. 3 9-7-0



Losing at home to the Raiders is not a good look for a team that was riding high after two impressive victories. Carson Wentz wasn’t good enough. 4 9-7-0



It looks like it could be Trey Lance the rest of the way for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. He did some good things in the second half against the Texans, but it will be tough for him to beat the Rams this week. 1 9-7-0



They struggled some against Washington, but they found a way late to win it, which is a good sign. They are in the playoffs. 1 9-7-0



They are still alive in the playoff chase. If they beat the Ravens this week and the Jaguars beat the Colts, they are in. It’s a long shot, but it’s possible. 2 8-7-1



At 8-8, they are still alive, but they need help. The defense was impressive against the Panthers. 5 8-8-0



They simply had too many injuries and COVID situations to get into the playoffs this year. This is a good team that will be sitting home. 4 8-8-0



They are out of the playoffs, which means it could be the end for coach Vic Fangio. Three seasons without the playoffs usually means that’s the case. 7-9-0



They are a lesson in how it’s not always a good thing to be the darlings of the preseason. This was a disappointing season in a lot of ways. 7-9-0



Could this be the end of Mike Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota? Missing the playoffs for a second straight season is not a good look. 7-9-0



They were eliminated from the playoffs in losing to the Titans. Tua Tagovailoa was not good in a big moment, which means he might not be their long-term guy. 5 8-8-0



They finally played a decent game against the Lions last week, but it’s too late. What happens to Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson after the season? 2 6-10-0



They have some tough decisions to make after the season. Matt Ryan coming back is one of them. 1 7-9-0


Football Team

They had a chance against the Eagles, but they came up a little short. Two consecutive division losses ended any chance they had to be a playoff team. 1 6-10-0



This thing went bad after a fast start to the season. The offensive line is as bad as any in the league, and it shows every week. 5-11-0



The Bears impressed in beating the Giants, but it’s too little for Matt Nagy. He is almost certainly gone after the season. 6-10-0



They played tough again at San Francisco, which could mean David Culley is coming back. Can they knock off the Titans this week? 4-12-0



That little streak of being in games came to an end at Seattle. But there is a lot to like about this season for this young team. 2-13-1



Their offense is abysmal. It’s hard to believe it gets worse by the week and now Mike Glennon is out. Changes are needed after the season. 4-12-0



The good news is Zach Wilson is getting better. The bad news is they still blew a game late in losing to the Bucs. 4-12-0



It gets uglier each and every week. The end can’t get here soon enough. Trevor Lawrence is getting worse by the week. 2-14-0

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