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Titans eye AFC top seed … and Derrick Henry’s return

Ryan Tannehill and the Titans have managed to keep winning despite the injury to Derrick Henry.Syndication The Tennessean
Ryan Tannehill and the Titans have managed to keep winning despite the injury to Derrick Henry.Syndication The Tennessean

After returning to the top spot in the AFC playoff race last week, the Tennessee Titans could welcome a stalwart back for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the host Houston Texans.

Tennessee this week designated running back Derrick Henry to return to practice from injured reserve, beginning a 21-day window for the team to activate him. Henry has been on IR since suffering a foot injury against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 8 and underwent surgery Nov. 2.

The Titans (11-5) have won five of eight without Henry, who still ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards (937) and rushing touchdowns (10).

Tennessee can secure the AFC’s top seed and a first-round bye with a victory against the Texans (4-12) or a Kansas City Chiefs loss in Denver on Saturday. Whether Henry returns in Week 18 or the first game of what the Titans hope is a lengthy postseason run, he figures to bring a marked boost.

“It’s exciting to get him back out there,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Obviously, he’s put in a lot of work to get to this point, and it’s been a while. … Derrick is a heck of a player. Anytime we can get him out here working his way to going out and competing, it’s going to be huge for us. He has to work through some things and get ready to go, but excited for the steps that he’s taken and the work he’s put in to get to this point.”

Tannehill passed for two touchdowns and D’Onta Foreman ran for 132 yards and a score to help the Titans rout the visiting Miami Dolphins 34-3 last week to clinch their second successive AFC South crown.

Meantime, Kansas City’s road loss to Cincinnati allowed Tennessee to vault into the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Houston lost 23-7 to host San Francisco in Week 17, snapping a two-game winning streak. The Texans were limited to 222 yards of offense, with quarterback Davis Mills finishing 21-for-32 passing for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Texans coach David Culley said the locker room was loose and determined entering the season finale.

“They’re looking at it as they want to end the year the right way,” Culley said. “They want to end it with a win. We’ve had three or four ballgames where we’ve gone into the fourth quarter with chances to win and couldn’t finish it. Last week was one of those. And hopefully this week, we can finish it and finish it the right way, and if we do the right things, we’ll get the results that we want.”

Tennessee leads the all-time series with Houston 21-18 and is seeking a season split. The Texans defeated the host Titans 22-13 in Week 11, earning their first win against their AFC South rivals since a 24-21 triumph in Week 15 of the 2019 season.

Tennessee outgained Houston 420-190 in that first matchup but was unable to overcome four Tannehill interceptions. The Titans also fumbled four times, losing one.

–Field Level Media