When the Tennessee Titans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday to secure a playoff spot, everyone in Nissan Stadium expected a third meeting between the two teams as the AFC’s 3rd and 6th seeds.
But before they returned to their vehicles everything had changed.
Several minutes later, and several hundred miles up the road, the Baltimore Ravens were upset in dramatic fashion by the Cincinnati Bengals. As a result, Tennessee moved up to the fifth seed and will now face the 4th seed Kansas City Chiefs Saturday afternoon.
How ironic for the Titans to return to Arrowhead Stadium for wild-card weekend, because what happened there a year ago ramped up expectations and jump-started this year’s playoff run.
On December 18, 2016, the 7-6 Titans went to Arrowhead to face the heavily favored 10-3 Chiefs. Kansas City was looking to secure a playoff spot, and the Titans were just one of many rebuilding teams that was making progress…albeit under the radar.
The underdog Titans overcame a 14 point first quarter deficit to upset the Chiefs in one of the toughest venues in football, on one of the coldest days in franchise history.
The national spotlight was on Kansas City and their stellar season prior to kickoff, but by the time that Ryan Succop kicked a game-winning 53 yard field goal as time expired, the focus shifted to the remarkable turnaround by the Titans…who were now in position to win the AFC South.
And while we all know what happened the following week in Jacksonville, that game put Tennessee back on the national radar. So much so that many national pundits, which included Peter King, picked the Titans as a legitimate preseason playoff contender.
That game also changed the psyche and expectations of the organization and their fans, setting the stage for this year’s nail-biting and often frustrating “playoffs or bust” season that literally went down to the final seconds.
The Titans reached their goal, but as it was a year ago, they are heavy road underdogs to a Chiefs’ team picked by most to obliterate them.
And just like a year ago, the Titans can once again steal the national spotlight and escalate expectations for next season with another improbable win.