Instead of carving up my brined Jadeveon Clowney, or opening a can of Jamil “Cranberry Sauce” Douglas, I’m here to focus on the macaroni and cheese.
On Sunday, the Titans face the division-rival Indianapolis Colts, a matchup that could likely decide the AFC South. A win for the Titans would give them a 75 percent chance to win the division and a 94 percent chance to make the playoffs, per the New York Times.
Talking about the Titans’ road to the playoffs is something I could do all day, and it is, of course, the thing Titans fans should be most thankful for on Thanksgiving — other than cornbread dressing.
I digress; let’s take a look at the six other things Titans fans should be thankful for.
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The triple threat: Titans controlling owner, Amy Adams Strunk, general manager Jon Robinson, and head coach Mike Vrabel — their leadership provides a solid foundation in Tennessee. Strunk saved this franchise with her hiring of Robinson in January of 2016. And, while his 2020 draft class has not made a major impact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better talent evaluator in the NFL. Vrabel has delivered on his end, too. Before his "good to great" mantra could stale, his ability to coach helped guide the Titans to an AFC championship game in 2019. In the strangest of years, the Titans (7-3) managed to retain some of last season's magic, and it starts with continuity at the top.
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The Titans have a plethora of young stars — a testament to Robinson's evaluation skills. Wide receiver A.J. Brown is built by the shell of a tank and leads the league in broken tackles at his position (14). Brown was the fourth receiver selected in the 2019 NFL draft, and I'd bet the sweet potato casserole those that passed on him (BAL, NE, SF) want a mulligan. Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons was perhaps the gift of a lifetime and will anchor the defensive line for years to come. Several factors led to his draft-day slide in 2019, but fortunately, the Titans were there to reap the rewards. Simmons has been a menace in the trenches and has set the tone for his squad. https://twitter.com/JohnLowellNFL/status/1331675453606780931 An honorable mention here goes to Titans second-year safety Amani Hooker. After notching an interception in his first start of the season against the Baltimore Ravens, Hooker leads the team in picks with three. He has become a reliable option in the Titans' big nickel package and a game-changer when targeted.
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
"Lord, blesseth all defensive backs of Josh Norman-like stature this Thanksgiving, and thank you for unleashing the behemoth that is King Henry in Nashville," said someone's Uncle Earl, probably. Titans fans are uniform in their fandom of Henry, and many liken him to the second coming of Eddie George. While they are certainly not the same back, the similarities are there, and George has been an irreplaceable mentor for Henry. With Nissan Stadium at full capacity, the "Henry" chants sound almost identical to "Eddie." It's a thrilling phenomenon to be a part of and reminiscent of Nashville's early 2000's energy. I, for one, am forever thankful for King Henry and the juice he brings the city. He is ferocious on the field and as close to unstoppable as it gets. The reigning rushing champion currently holds the league lead with 1,079 rushing yards through 10 games; 739 of those after contact.
A competent QB
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Believe it or not, Ryan Tannehill ranks top-10 in categories vital to the quarterback position's performance. The facts essentially eliminate the "game-manager" narrative surrounding Tanny's name since his inauguration as a Titan. Yes, Derrick Henry is the centerpiece of the Titans' offense, but Tannehill isn't far behind. Under offensive coordinator Arthur Smith's direction, Tannehill has become one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the NFL. Through 10 games this season, No. 17 is ninth in passing yardage, fourth in QBR (quarterback rating), and tied for third in touchdowns. Therefore, I am thankful for Ryan Tannehill's emergence in Tennessee, and a special shout out to the mishandling of his early career in Miami. Thanks, Adam Gase!
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There aren't many offensive linemen as tough as Titans center Ben Jones. And while he isn't solely responsible for the Titans' resiliency, he was the first name that came to mind. Toughness and resilience are not mutually exclusive; the former a facet of the Titans' mentality, which leads to the latter. Five of the Titans' seven victories this season have been come-from-behind finishes. Each of them occurred with under two minutes left in regulation or went to overtime. And, the Titans have had to pull those out missing several key players for different reasons. The Titans have a penchant for dramatics — the two-tone blue consistently shaves years off of our lives, but with each win, they give us everlasting joy. I kind of like it that way.
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Last but not least, I am incredibly thankful for the depth the Titans' roster possesses. Swing tackle, Ty Sambrailo, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday after having filled-in for left tackle Taylor Lewan who tore his ACL in Week 6. He played outstanding football, and I was thankful for him during the five weeks he started. The Titans lost inside linebacker Jayon Brown for the season to a fractured and dislocated elbow on Sunday, but there are options in his stead. Second-year linebacker, David Long, has been solid when given the opportunity and should soon return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Linebacker Will Compton's number was called in Baltimore when Brown went down, and he turned in the team's highest defensive grade (79.8) per Pro Football Focus. And, let's not forget cornerback Breon Borders, who — since his elevation from the team's practice squad — has locked down opposing wide receivers with authority. In four games, Borders has allowed a measly 14 catches (24 targets) for 114 yards and zero touchdowns. YEESH.