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Broncos at Titans 5 questions: Why do Derrick Henry and Tennessee fly under the radar?

To preview Sunday’s game, we go “behind enemy lines” to get a feel for Henry, the Titans and what’s in store in Nashville.

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Russel Wilson and the Denver Broncos are coming off a big win and their bye.

The Tennessee Titans are on the heels of a tough overtime loss.

For the Broncos (3-5) to have a shot they’ll need to find a way to contain Derrick Henry. For the Titans (5-3), the key comes at quarterback and the status of Ryan Tannehill. If Tannehill can play, that makes the task for Denver a skosh tougher.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, the Broncos are a +2.5-point underdog. Earlier in the week, the line was +3.5 and that’s much better for Denver. Either way, the Titans listed as a favorite makes total sense. As for the total, that number sits 36.5. That is a low number, but the under is still the play. In Broncos games, the under is 7-1. In Tennesse games, the under is 6-2. That continues this week.

To preview the game, we go behind enemy lines to get a feel for the Titans, the players to watch and what to expect in Sunday’s game in Nashville with Jimmy Morris from Music City Miracles. For those interested, here are my answers to Jimmy’s 5 questions about the Broncos.

MHR: Why do the Tennessee Titans always fly under the radar? The Titans never get mentioned when the best teams in the AFC are reeled off, despite just being the top seed in the AFC. And how does the team feed off that?

Jimmy: I think the biggest reason is that they don’t have a flashy offense. They love to win by running the ball and playing good defense. They have the best running back in the league and are content to hand the ball to him 30 times a game — in fact, that is exactly what they want to do. They win games by a score or less. The analytics say that isn’t sustainable. Mike Vrabel has proven that it can be.

I don’t think the team feeds off of that anymore. There was a time when they did, but the culture Vrabel has built here is to block out the noise and do whatever it takes to win games. His players have bought into that.

MHR: How much of a surprise was the A.J. Brown trade this offseason? And what’s the impact of Brown’s loss on the offense?

Jimmy: It was a shock. Apparently, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than we knew. A.J. wanted to go play with Jalen Hurts. He pretty much cut off negotiations with the Titans in order to make that happen. You might have seen him tweeting about the Titans during the game with the Chiefs. He has taken a ton of shots at the team after raving about how much he loved Vrabel and the organization last year. I can’t understand why he keeps doing it. He got everything he wanted when he was traded - a huge contract and to play with Hurts.

The impact is that they don’t have that alpha receiver that they can count on to make a big play in a big moment. Their receivers didn’t have a catch last week. No way that would have happened with A.J. out there. The good news is that Treylon Burks, who they drafted with the pick they got for Brown, was designated to return from IR this week.

MHR: What is the status of Ryan Tannehill? And how important is it to get him back on the field? Tied into that, would the Titans have won Sunday against the Chiefs if Tannehill were playing?

Jimmy: He logged a limited practice yesterday and there was video of him actually practicing - unlike the last two weeks when he was listed as limited but didn’t participate in the portion open to the media. They said he was close last week. I don’t think they ever really thought he was going to play, but this week appears to be different.

It’s really important to have him on the field. This offense has a lot of serious deficiencies - starting with the pass protection from the offensive line. Having a veteran at QB can help with that at times. Malik Willis didn’t look great in his two starts, but he doesn’t have much of a chance with Dennis Daley playing left tackle and you and me running pass routes.

They would have had a better chance to win that game with a healthy Tannehill for sure. They also could have won the game if Chris Conley could catch or they could have stopped Patrick Mahomes from making plays with his legs. Oh, and also if the refs didn’t give the Chiefs 16 tries to make their 2-point conversion. Travis Kelce ripped Josh Kalu’s helmet off, but who cares, right?

MHR: What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? And what do you think of the Titans being the favorite?

Jimmy: With these two offenses, the under 36.5 might be the best play. The Titans haven’t scored more than 24 points in any game, and they are allergic to scoring in the 2nd half.

I think it’s fair that the Titans are a 2-point favorite. If you assume 2-3 points for being at home, that basically makes this game a pick ‘em. That seems about right.

MHR: What are your expectations/predictions for Sunday’s game?

Jimmy: I expect the Titans to win an ugly game. With the Broncos being in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense, the Titans will hand it to Henry 25-30 times and be content to grind out a 17-10 type of win.

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