Ryan Tannehill's Tennessee Titans heating up at right time
Watch Tannehill and the Titans (8-5) take on the Houston Texans (8-5) for the AFC South lead on Sunday from 5.30pm on Sky Sports Action (407); kickoff is at 6pm
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 15/12/19 8:00pm
In order to understand how impressive Ryan Tannehill has been as starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, you have to consider his struggles with the Miami Dolphins.
In seven seasons in Florida (including one missed with an ACL tear), Tannehill had a 42-46 record, completed 62.8 per cent of his passes with 123 touchdowns to 75 interceptions, had a passer rating of 87.0, and averaged just seven yards per attempt.
The wide receiver-turned-quarterback was considered a risk of sorts being taken in the top 10 in the 2012 NFL Draft (eighth overall) considering he spent the first two and a half years of his college career as a wideout before taking over under center for the end of 2010 and the 2011 season.
He was labelled 'raw' as a prospect and although he improved over time, the 30-year-old's days as a Dolphin can't be considered a huge success. He never had more than eight wins in a season, and didn't reach the playoffs in any of them.
This summer, he was gifted a fresh start.
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Miami traded Tannehill and a sixth-round pick to Tennessee for a fourth-rounder in March - giving themselves a backup to their own disappointing franchise QB Marcus Mariota, and some potential competition.
As it turns out, Mariota continued his own struggles on the way to a 2-4 record to start 2019, and head coach Mike Vrabel turned to Tannehill midway through the team's 0-16 blowout in Denver in Week Six.
Since then, the new starter has seized the opportunity and never looked back as the Titans are now at 8-5 and on the bring of a playoff berth.
On Wednesday, he was named as the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his 21 of 27, 391-yard, three-touchdown, 140.4 passer rating outing against the Raiders on Sunday.
With that performance, Tanehill joined Aaron Rodgers (2011) as the only players to complete at least 75 percent of their passes with a passer rating of 130 or higher (minimum 10 attempts) in three consecutive games in a single season in NFL history.
He also joined Russell Wilson (2015) as the only players with four consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns and a passer rating of 125 or higher.
In short, he is on fire, and on a pace that is above his career average in every significant category.
Ryan Tannehill 2012-18 vs 2019 stats
To put some of those 2019 numbers into perspective, his passer rating leads the entire league - 6.5 points above Kirk Cousins in second. If he continues at this pace, it would be the fourth-highest single-season passer rating of all time.
His completion percentage would be the third-highest total of all time, and yards per attempt tied for seventh all time and the best since 2000 (Kurt Warner, 9.9).
This is the type of quarterback play that wins games in the postseason. But it's not just about the QB, as running back Derrick Henry is also playing at the highest level of his career so far.
Henry leads the Titans in carries (250), rushing yards (1,243) and rushing TDs (13), and also accounts for the fourth-highest percentage of a team's touches in the NFL (45 per cent). He is rumbling and sprinting his way to in insane second half of the season.
In his last four games, Henry has 599 yards on 86 carries (6.97 average) and seven touchdowns. He's gone four straight games with at least 100 rushing yards and one score, tying Hall of Famer Earl Campbell for the most in franchise history.
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In true vintage football fashion, the Titans are running to set up the pass, and Tannehill's play-action passing numbers are off the charts because of it.
According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the league in completion percentage (76.7), yards per attempt (14.1) and passer rating (137.5) on play-action throws and has two of the top five passing-yard games since 2016 - both coming in the last three weeks (218 vs Jacksonville in Week 12, 276 vs Oakland in Week 14).
The offense as a whole is averaging 15.1 points per game with Tannehill as a starter than Mariota, and only the Ravens average more points per game (35.1) and rushing yards per game (197.4) since the veteran took over.
When you talk about the NFL's hottest teams, it's hard to look past Tennessee.
On Sunday, they host the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (also 8-5) in a fight for sole top spot in the division, before they play again in Week 17.
The Texans have been one of the hardest teams to figure out this season, having not won more than two games in a row all season and providing an extreme mix of results. They beat the Patriots and Chiefs, but were blown out 41-7 by Baltimore and fell to a shocking 38-24 home defeat to Denver last week. Who are they?
Houston will have to figure it out quickly because the Titans have won four straight games - and four straight at home - and only the Ravens have a better record that Tennessee's 6-1 since Week Seven.
Will Ryan Tannehill and the the Titans continue their hot streak on Sunday?
Watch our coverage live on Sky Sports Action from 5.30pm; kickoff is at 6pm, followed by Rams at Cowboys at 9.25pm and Bills at Steelers at 1.20am.
NFL RedZone is on Sky Sports Mix from 6pm.