In almost any other year this century, if you had just knocked off the New England Patriots on their home field in the opening round of the AFC playoffs, you would probably become the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
However, this isn't almost any other year. So even if the Tennessee Titans somewhat shocked the world Saturday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, by stunning last season's Super Bowl champs, 20-13, they've really just gone from the frying pan into the fire regarding matchups.
That's because the Titans' opponent this coming Saturday night is Baltimore, and the Ravens boast electric, elusive quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville who has thrown for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns this season and run for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns.
Or as Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel noted during a news conference Sunday afternoon: "Offensively, they have the best player in the league, who is impossible to tackle. They have a great scheme — on any other day it would be fun to watch, but not when you are trying to prepare for them and stop them."
Vrabel is 1,000% right that there may be no more fun player to watch in all of professional football than Jackson, who seems to have sprinter speed attached to a cannon arm that most every quarterback in the league might envy for its velocity, if nothing else.
After all, those 36 touchdown tosses have been accompanied by only six interceptions. So he's not only powerful, he's accurate. And because of that speed and elusiveness, you can't afford to focus too much on the pass or he'll run by you. Other than those qualities, of course, he's any defensive coordinator's dream matchup.
That doesn't mean ageless Titans DC Dean Pees can't cook up something to somewhat slow Jackson down. He managed to concoct a plan to rein in Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes just enough for Tennessee to knock off the Chiefs in early November, though an even better showing probably will be needed if the Titans are to stun the Ravens. That said, Tennessee's coaches and players are capable of such magic.
Yet wasn't the entire opening weekend of the NFL playoffs pretty magical if you didn't care who won? There was Houston coming from a 16-0 hole to topple Buffalo 22-19 in overtime. For those of you with really long memories who once followed the "Love Ya Blue" Houston Oilers before they picked up stakes and moved to Tennessee to become the Titans, this victory by the Texans had to be a cathartic moment some 27 years in the making.
It was during the opening round of the playoffs for the 1992 season that those Oilers took a 35-3 second-half lead against Buffalo, only to lose 41-38 in overtime.
This time, it was the Bills who blew a seemingly insurmountable lead. Payback is heck, even if a good number of players who were on the field Saturday afternoon weren't even born in 1992.
Then there was the Titans' amazing effort Saturday night, followed by Minnesota's stunning 26-20 overtime victory over New Orleans on Sunday afternoon inside the Superdome, which will also host a fairly important football game a week from Monday when the College Football Playoff title game between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson, the reigning national champ, finally arrives.
A side observation for anyone cheering for Clemson looking for a positive omen after the Vikings shocked the Saints, who were 7-1 in their past eight playoff games inside the Superdome prior to Sunday. Clemson can wear an all-purple ensemble — purple jerseys, purple pants — much the same as the Vikes, because LSU is sure to wear its traditional white jerseys, much as the Saints did on Sunday.
A second side note: This was a bad year for 40-something future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Losses by both Patriots legend Tom Brady and Saints counterpart Drew Brees make you wonder if their best is behind them in a major way.
Lastly, at least from the opening weekend, there are the Seattle Seahawks, whose 17-9 win over Philadelphia on Sunday evening was not only the 13th game they've played this season that was decided by fewer than 10 points, it was also the exact same score they beat the Eagles by on Nov. 24.
Seattle will visit Green Bay next Sunday for what promises to be yet another nailbiter against the Packers.
So now it really gets serious. The Titans at Baltimore and the Texans at Kansas City in the AFC. The Seahawks at Green Bay and the Vikings at San Francisco in the NFC.
Said Vrabel in a statement that could make you wonder how much Tennessee has left in the tank for Baltimore: "I told them that to win the game (at New England), you're going to have to be mentally and physically exhausted."
If that came to pass, recharging quickly enough to overcome Jackson and the Ravens could be difficult.
On the other hand, as Titans running back Derrick Henry noted after running for 182 yards against a defense ranked tops in the league all season: "We were just locked in. That was our mindset: Just coming in here doing what we needed to do in all three phases, stay locked in no matter what happens in the game, and I feel like we did that."
Yes, they did. And if they can somehow fully recover mentally and physically from the dethroning of the champs, they just might play well enough to lock up a spot in the AFC title game.