Margin for error gone, Titans hope to start run vs. NY Jets
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans‘ margin for error is gone, and earning a second straight playoff berth will require finishing this season with a winning flourish.
The Titans (5-6) blew hopes of the franchise’s first AFC South title in a decade by losing two straight inside the division to cap a stretch of five losses in seven games. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard says the Titans’ backs are against the wall now.
“We got a chance to change and make up for what we’ve been doing these past couple weeks and not worried about what we should’ve done,” Woodyard said.
Coming off a 34-17 loss in Houston on Monday night, the Titans will try to make their stand at home playing four of their final five games starting Sunday with the New York Jets (3-8). The Titans have won 13 of their last 16 at Nissan Stadium, and linebacker Brian Orakpo says they understand the challenge they face.
A year ago, the Titans went 2-3 in December to miss out on the AFC South title but grab the second wild-card spot. Orakpo says they need to be realistic, ignore all the scenarios and see the Jets as the first step toward winning out.
“We have to give ourselves a chance, 10-6 looks pretty good to me,” Orakpo said. “And we have to make sure that’s a reality and not just some talk.”
Losers of five straight, the Jets are hoping they can get Sam Darnold back at quarterback after missing the last two games with an injured foot, including a 27-13 loss to the Patriots last week. The rookie remains optimistic about the Jets’ goals for a season in which coach Todd Bowles’ future is on the clock.
“Just finishing strong, sticking together, doing what we can to win these last five, and who knows,” Darnold said. “We’ll go from there.”
Some things to know about the Jets and Titans:
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is coming off the second-best single-game passing performance in NFL history, completing 95.7 percent of passes in Houston. He’s on pace for the single-best performance in franchise history with a 70.3 completion percentage this season, a mark currently set by Cody Carlson at 65.6 percent in 1992 with the then-Houston Oilers. Mariota also ranks fourth in the NFL this season for completion percentage.
Whether it has been Darnold or veteran Josh McCown under center, the Jets’ offense has struggled lately to score. Since beating Indianapolis 42-24 on Oct. 14, New York has just 56 points — a five-game span during which the Jets have failed to score more than 17 against any opponent. They rank 26th in the league, averaging 20.1 points a game.
That’s still better than the Titans, who went eight quarters without a touchdown earlier this season, including being shut out by Baltimore in October. They’re averaging 17.7 points a game, 29th in the league.
Jets linebacker Avery Williamson will be in familiar territory when he plays in Tennessee. The former Milan High School star spent his first four NFL seasons with the Titans before signing a three-year, $22.5 million deal with New York. Williamson leads the Jets with 117 overall tackles and is tied for second on the team with three sacks.
“It’s definitely going to be fun going against my old teammates,” Williamson said. “I haven’t seen them since January, so it’ll definitely be cool, especially going on the opposite sideline. It’ll be interesting.”
The Jets have 15 takeaways this season, which ranks them a respectable 15th in the NFL in that category. But turnovers have been tough to come by lately for New York — and it’s on the verge of making history. The defense has not caused a turnover in five consecutive games, tying a league record for futility. One more game and the Jets will hold that dubious distinction all by themselves.
“We’re obviously out there talking about turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, and getting it done, but we’re not getting it done,” safety Jamal Adams said. “We’re just talking about it. It’s very frustrating as a defense when we’re not getting turnovers and helping our offense get in better situations. It’s something we have to get done.”
The Titans have only nine takeaways this season and none in the past three games.
Jets kicker Jason Myers has been one of the team’s biggest surprises this season, ranking second in the NFL with 23 field goals. He has been consistently good on long-distance attempts, making a league-record five kicks of 55 yards or more. He beat out several kickers early this season after being claimed off waivers from Seattle during training camp.