The Dallas Cowboys travel to Nashville for a Thursday Night Football matchup with an injured, unmotivated Tennessee Titans team.
Usually, contending teams are fighting for higher playoff seeding in Week 17 and 18. The Titans are no different, but their situation is rather unique.
The Titans matchup with the Cowboys holds no value for Tennessee in terms of securing better playoff positioning. Tennessee is currently tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for first place in the AFC South, and the teams square off in Week 18.
Even if the Cowboys defeat the Titans, Tennessee can still beat Jacksonville in Week 18 and they’d be crowned AFC South champions.
With little to play for, the Titans will likely bench RB Derrick Henry on Thursday night. The three-time Pro Bowler recently sustained a hip injury and is listed as doubtful.
Tennessee is already without QB Ryan Tannehill who underwent ankle surgery last week and will be inactive vs. Dallas.
Who is left on the Titans offense?
Without Henry and Tannehill, there aren’t many familiar faces on the Titans offense. Plus, Tennessee has the sixth-worst scoring offense in football. Without the starting QB and RB, it’s unlikely we’ll see many explosive plays from the Titans tonight.
One player fans should recognize is rookie QB Malik Willis who was a third round pick out of Liberty. Willis is expected to be the Titans QB of the future, but his first season has been rocky. He’s 1-2 as a starter but has played in seven games. In those appearances, Willis’ average passer rating is 42.8, and his average QB rating is 12.1.
WR Robert Woods’ name should ring a bell. Woods was injured during the playoffs, but was a member of the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl winning team from a season ago. Woods leads the Titans with 448 receiving yards, so it should come as no surprise that Tennessee is the third-worst passing team in football.
Tasked with filling in for Henry is RB Hassan Haskins, who is actually the third-stringer behind Dontrell Hilliard. But Hilliard is currently on injured reserve. Haskins is a rookie selected in the fourth round, and has just 11 rushing attempts for 50 yards this season.
To summarize, an already terrible Tennessee offense will be shorthanded and relying on inexperienced rookies tonight.
Add in the fact that four Titans defensive starters are injured and inactive, and the Cowboys massive -13 spread makes sense.
What are the Cowboys playing for?
Like the Titans, the Cowboys don’t have much at stake in the TNF matchup. According to a New York Times playoff predictor, the Cowboys have a 98% chance at landing the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs.
However, there is a 2% chance Dallas overtakes the Philadelphia Eagles and wins the NFC East. The Cowboys would need to win out and the Eagles need to lose out. It’s unlikely Philadelphia loses two consecutive home games against the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants, but crazier things have happened.