Don't tell the Tennessee Titans they are out of playoff contention.
Even though their 4-6 record says they are an extreme long shot to play football in January, Coach Mike Munchak has sold his team on the notion that at 4-6, the Titans are just a nice win streak away from perhaps making an improbable run to playoff contention.
It won't be easy, because after this week's game in Jacksonville, the Titans face the Houston Texans at home and then travel to Indianapolis. But Munchak certainly isn't about to tell his team they can't get on a roll.
“It’s up to them how we play, how this thing finishes. We have six games left, and there is nothing we can do about the past ones other than learn from it. ... Let’s get on a run. This is when you always hear about teams in November and December when they make their move. It seems to happen every year in the league. This is our opportunity, our chance to be that team,” Munchak said.
The coach pointed to the Titans' 37-3 win in Miami as a stepping stone to what can happen when the team plays well in all aspects of the game.
“They saw what they’re capable of doing when finally all three phases played well in one game. We have to see if we can do that again. I think it’s encouraging that way, but knowing that it’s up to them. It’s not just going to happen,” Munchak said. “We can’t show up on Sunday and say, ‘Well did you guys see what we did a couple of weeks ago at Miami?’ It starts all over again. …
“If we do that, we have as good of a chance as anybody of winning these games we have coming up. As you win one, the next one gets bigger and more exciting. You win this one, and all of a sudden, look at the Houston game. Then it’s the next one, and you move on. It’s up to you, if you want to have that kind of season and that kind of finish, or do you want to have the other kind, which I don’t think any of us want.”
The Titans travel to Jacksonville this week to play the 1-9 Jaguars, and Munchak has cautioned his team against letdown against a team that took AFC South leader Houston into overtime Sunday. The Jaguars have not won a home game all year, but last year the Titans all but crashed their playoff hopes in a similar situation. They lost at Indianapolis, giving the Colts their first win of the year in the process.
“When you play a division team, like Houston found out, like we found out last year when we lost to the Colts at Indy, records don’t matter. We have three games in a row versus our division, and we have to get a couple division wins,” Munchak said.
Titans players are buying in, even though the playoffs are probably a long shot even in the jumbled AFC wild-card chase.
“We've still got a shot. We definitely do. Our next three games are all division games – Jacksonville, Houston here and then go to Indy,” linebacker Colin McCarthy said. “It's three great opportunities for us, and most of all, we've got to beat Jacksonville.”
The Titans held four players out of practice on Monday, but all four are likely to practice later in the week, Munchak said.
Safety Al Afalava (ankle), linebacker Xavier Adibi (knee) and running back Jamie Harper (ankle) were nursing injuries before the bye week, and tight end Craig Stevens was rested Wednesday with a tight hamstring.
Also, receiver Lavelle Hawkins rolled his right ankle at the end of practice, but Munchak said he didn't think it was serious.