Surging Titans staying focused as they chase playoff berth
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Another week, another team leapfrogged by the Tennessee Titans in their chase of the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot.
But the Titans fully understand any scenario that has them returning to the postseason hinges on them continuing to win.
“Playoffs came a month early for us, so that’s the mindset and mentality,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “Win and stay in. We’re just taking it week by week.”
That approach has the Titans (8-6) on a three-game winning streak and coming off a 17-0 shutout of the New York Giants . It was the franchise’s first shutout since Dec. 25, 2000 and only its fourth ever on the road. Now the Titans are back home on a short week hosting the Washington Redskins (7-7) on Saturday, waiting to see if either Baltimore or Pittsburgh loses to set up a winner goes to the playoffs game Dec. 30 between Tennessee and the Colts.
The Titans already are 3-0 against the NFC East and can finish off a sweep Saturday.
“For us, we just worry about focusing and winning this game,” cornerback Adoree Jackson said. “At the end of the day we can’t really think about whatever division that is or the playoffs. It is all about just winning the game in front of you. One game at a time, one series and one snap at a time. We have to lock in. Having a short week it is going to be a lot about being prepared. Get our bodies ready to go. We have to be there, be ready and be sharp.”
Coach Mike Vrabel has had plenty of practice getting the Titans ready on a short week in his debut season.
This will be the fourth such game in seven weeks for the Titans who are 3-0 with wins over the Patriots, Jets and Jaguars. Vrabel said he’s following the same approach, giving the Titans the day off Monday and bringing them back to work at noon Tuesday to allow as much time to recuperate as possible.
“Right now, it’s about taking care of our bodies and our health and getting everybody back that we can possibly get back on a week that’s one day shorter,” Vrabel said.
The Titans will be without starting cornerback Logan Ryan, who announced Monday morning that he broke his left leg and will miss the rest of the season. Rookie linebacker Sharif Finch also hurt his left shoulder, and safety Kenny Vaccaro is in the concussion protocol. The Titans placed right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Jonnu Smith on injured reserve last week for a total of eight players out for the season.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo missed his first game since signing with Tennessee in 2015, snapping a streak of 61 straight starts because of an injured elbow.
“We’ll kind of see how everybody is feeling and where we’re at,” Vrabel said.
The Titans now have the NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense giving up just 18.1 points per game with 254 total points allowed — just one behind the Ravens (253).
They also have a run game once again with Derrick Henry putting together the best back-to-back rushing performances in franchise history with 408 yards combined, topping the 405 yards by Hall of Famer Earl Campbell in October 1980 against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. His two-game stretch also has Henry up to 11th in the NFL with 882 yards, and he’s tied for third in the league with his 11 TDs rushing.
Henry said the Titans definitely are in a groove as an offense with everyone on the same page.
“But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves, keep attacking them, and we’ve got the Redskins next,” Henry said.