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Surveying AFC playoff picture
AJ Brown in stands.jpg
A.J. Brown jumps into the stands after a fourth-quarter TD catch that tied Sunday’s game against the Texans. The rookie from Ole Miss has given Titans fans reason to celebrate with 893 yards receiving with 7 TD catches, both team highs. - photo by James Clark

The good news is the Titans late-season surge has catapulted them into the No. 7 seed in the AFC playoff race

The bad news is that leaves them as the first team out of the playoffs unless they can climb one spot higher.

The Titans (8-6) lost control of their own destiny with Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Texans in Nashville. Their most likely chance of making the playoffs is if the Steelers (8-6) stumble down the stretch.

Pittsburgh has two road games remaining, this week against the Jets before facing the Ravens to close the regular season. The Ravens could opt to rest starters the final week if they have already secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Titans, meanwhile, have games remaining this Sunday against the Saints in Nashville before closing the regular season on the road against the Texans.

The Titans could still clinch the AFC South title if they win out and the Texans (9-5) lose in Tampa Bay this weekend and then lose to the Titans.

Already guaranteed playoff spots in the AFC are the Ravens, Patriots, Chiefs and Bills. In all likelihood, the Titans, Texans and Steelers are playing for the two remaining playoff spots. 

The Browns and Raiders, both 6-8, are the only other AFC teams not eliminated from the playoffs.

A.J. Brown shines

While the playoff future for the Titans remains uncertain, one thing appears less murky. Rookie WR A.J. Brown looks like he will be a game-breaking talent for years to come.

Brown continued to punctuate his first pro season with a head-turning performance Sunday against the Texans. Brown finished with eight catches for 114 yards and a TD. 

Brown has clearly emerged as QB Ryan Tannehill’s go-to receiver with 13 targets for the game.

Said Tannehill of Brown, “He was making plays so I kept going back to him and he showed how dangerous he is.”

On a receiving corps that features No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis and high-priced free agent Adam Humphries, Brown is the one who leads the Titans with 893 receiving yards and 47 catches. He has scored 7 TDs.

Brown has topped 100 yards receiving in three of his last four games. On Sunday, he because the first Titans player, rookie or veteran, with four 100-yard receiving games in a single season since Drew Bennett had five 100-yard games in 2004.

Since Tannehill became the starting QB in Week 7, Brown is averaging 77.5 receiving yards per game. In six games with Marcus Mariota as the starter, Brown averaged 45.5 yards per game.