As the Titans were pulling out a narrow victory over the rival Colts on Sunday afternoon, they might have been losing their best chance at winning a Super Bowl. Derrick Henry left the contest several times to be examined, and while he returned each time and finished with 28 carries, the seemingly unbreakable star running back won't be back for the foreseeable future. He will undergo surgery on an injured right foot Tuesday morning, and it's unclear when he will return to the lineup. His 2021 season might be over.
Obviously, this is terrible news. Unless you're a defensive player or a fan of a team competing with the Titans, the league is more fun with Henry doing his thing. There's really not anybody like him in the NFL, which makes the idea of the Titans replacing him a nonstarter. They will naturally line up somebody at halfback and hand him the ball, with Jeremy McNichols and free-agent addition Adrian Peterson first in line, but there aren't any like-for-like replacements for the guy who used to be in that role. Henry is one of one. Tennessee isn't going to be the same without him.
Can this team survive or even thrive without Henry, though? Ask 10 people across the NFL and you're likely to get 10 different answers. As a throwback runner in a league that has moved heavily to the pass, his value to the Titans is a unique proposition. Some of the evidence suggests they will be just fine without him . Other arguments suggest that they just lost the league's most valuable player. I'm not sure I agree with either, but I'm going to run through what we've seen and try to figure out what happens next for the only six-win team in the AFC: