Ti­tans ‘alive’ as Jags visit

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS -

NASHVILLE — The Jack­sonville Jaguars in­sist they’re ready to play, with no need to heal up for the play­off berth earned with their first AFC South ti­tle. That’s how coach Doug Mar­rone and Jaguars top foot­ball ex­ec­u­tive Tom Cough­lin pre­pare for the post­sea­son.

A three-game skid has left Ten­nessee need­ing a win to as­sure it­self of a play­off spot. Losses by both Buf­falo and the Charg­ers also would clinch a berth for the Ti­tans, who haven’t played beyond the 16th game since 2008.

“I’m ex­cited,” Ti­tans line­backer Brian Orakpo said. “We’re like a cat with nine lives, man, and we’re still alive. So we’ve got to take ad­van­tage of this op­por­tu­nity.”

Mo­men­tum for the post­sea­son (Jack­sonville) and an ac­tual play­off berth as ei­ther the AFC’s No. 5 or 6 seed (Ten­nessee) is on the line to­day when these ri­vals meet in a game pushed back to late af­ter­noon to rev up the drama. The Jaguars (10-5) are locked in as the No. 3 seed and al­ready know they’ll host a wild­card game next weekend.

If the Ti­tans (8-7) win, then Ten­nessee could head to Jack­sonville for the first play­off game be­tween these fran­chises since the 1999 sea­son. That’s when the Ti­tans swept all three games, the last the AFC cham­pi­onship in Jack­sonville to earn the fran­chise’s lone Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ance.

Jack­sonville is com­ing off a 44-33 loss in San Fran­cisco, but the Jaguars clearly re­mem­ber the Ti­tans rout­ing them 37-16 in the se­cond week of the sea­son. Pro Bowl de­fen­sive end Ma­lik Jack­son said this game is about re­spect for the Jaguars, who ended Ten­nessee’s play­off hopes last sea­son on Christ­mas Eve.

“We’re go­ing to try to do what we did last year and knock them out,” Jack­son said. “We un­der­stand, too, that if we don’t han­dle business Sun­day, we could be fac­ing the same team next Sun­day. We kind of want to get past them, fin­ish them and move on.”

The Ti­tans squan­dered their mar­gin for er­ror with a 27-23 loss to the Los An­ge­les Rams last week. But they will have quar­ter­back Marcus Mar­i­ota for a reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale for the first time in his pro ca­reer. Mar­i­ota said he’s wor­ried only about pro­duc­tion, not per­cep­tion.

“I’d rather get in with these guys,” Mar­i­ota said, “and just see how far we can go.”

Der­rick Henry will have his first chance at start­ing since the Ti­tans drafted the 2015 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner out of Alabama in 2016. Vet­eran run­ning back DeMarco Murray has a sprained right knee and is out to­day. The sel­dom-used David Fluellen will serve as the pri­mary backup.

Henry has not car­ried more than 19 times in a game this sea­son, but he ran 14 times for 92 yards and a touch­down against the Jaguars ear­lier this year.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Jack­sonville Jaguars de­fen­sive line­man Calais Camp­bell cel­e­brates af­ter sack­ing Hous­ton Tex­ans quar­ter­back T.J. Yates (2) dur­ing their Dec. 17 game in Jack­sonville, Fla.

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