Tennessee's playoff blueprint

Kickoff and punt returner Marc Mariani has consistently given the Titans good field position. Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

With the mercurial headcase Vince Young now on injured reserve, the Tennessee Titans' only options at quarterback are a hobbled old man and an anonymous rookie. If there's a silver lining to the dark clouds around this team, it's that its defense and special teams may be able to carry it into the playoffs anyway. Even in the Titans' 19-16 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, the underrated defense and excellent kicking game shone brightly.

On the surface, it seems silly to say that the Titans have one of the best defenses in football. This team ranks 24th in yards allowed per game: 11th against the run and 26th against the pass. Make no mistake, the Titans give up plenty of yards, but they more than make up for it with their big plays. No team has more sacks than Tennessee's 30, and its 15 interceptions are tied for second behind Philadelphia. The Titans also make big plays in the rushing game, stuffing opposing runners for no gain or a loss 48 times, sixth best in the league. Add those figures together and we can credit Tennessee's defense with 93 big plays, tied with Chicago for most in the league.