NASHVILLE, TN - 2020.12.06 - Titans vs Browns

Derrick Henry during the Titans' Dec. 6, 2020, game against the Cleveland Browns

The calculus is fairly simple for the Tennessee Titans to lock up the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the first time since 2008. A win at 4-12 Houston gives the Two-Toners home-field advantage throughout the postseason and the only bye available. Lose and it gets more complicated. (More on that later.)

When the NFL tweaked its scheduling format to guarantee final-week matchups between divisional opponents, it was to produce these meaningful games after years of farcical contests to wrap up the regular season. So, sure, the Texans don’t have much to play for standings-wise (although the Bullheads can secure a winning divisional record with a win, which is frankly hilarious), but no doubt they’d love to win and give the Titans some anxiety. 

For the Titans, the game is no gimme, as evidenced by the fact the team did, in fact, lose at home to the Texans 22-13 back in Week 11. As if they’ll need any extra motivation.

The big headline this week is that, like Sean Connery’s Richard in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the King could return. (NB: Lest you be under the misapprehension that the Kevin Costner vehicle based on a legendary figure was good history, it is my duty to inform you that the Lionheart did not come back to England after the Crusades, as he didn’t particularly care about England all that much; also the idea that 12th Brits would be so chill about a Moor cruising around Nottinghamshire is, frankly, hilarious.)

The equally legendary figure of Derrick Henry, brought low by a toe like some kind of hero in a Greek tragedy, has been designated for return from injured reserve and, in theory, could be activated for Sunday’s game. But we won’t know until Saturday (probably), because it’s never wise to let your enemy know the super-weapon is ready until you absolutely have to.

If he’s ready (and what clips we’ve seen of the superhuman-angelman indicate he’s at full power), should he play? Sure, why not? For one thing, he only needs 63 yards to hit 1,000 on the year. Yeah, we all expected him to go for 2K again, but 1,000 isn’t small potatoes, particularly since he’ll have played in only nine games. Secondly, getting him a few touches at game speed is worthwhile, especially if the Titans do get the bye. Knock the rust off the rocket train.

Should the Titans lose, they’ll still lock up the top seed with a Chiefs loss to the Broncos and Bengals loss or tie to the Browns and either a New England loss or tie against Miami or a Buffalo win against the Jets. The Titans can also take the top spot with a tie if the Chiefs lose or tie in Denver.

But if you are really pulling for hilarious chaos, consider this: If the Colts lose at Jacksonville (where they’ve not won since 2014), the Raiders and Chargers both get in if their game ends in a tie. Obviously, the logical thing for the NFL to have done was to move Colts/Jags to the afternoon slot opposite Vegas/L.A. Instead, the league flexed Vegas/L.A. into the Sunday night game, expecting a winner-gets-in scenario. But if, somehow, the Jags upset Indianapolis, the logical thing for the Raiders and Chargers to do is kneel out the game and end 0-0. Can you imagine the squealing from Football Men? It’s delicious.

Anyway, Titans and Texans kickoff at noon Sunday from Houston. CBS has the broadcast with Andrew Catalon and James Lofton on the call.

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