Fisher foresees similar playoff possibilities
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Coach Jeff Fisher played fortuneteller a year ago, telling his Tennessee Titans they would clinch a playoff berth with a victory combined with three other teams losing.
He was right, with one exception: The Tennessee Titans lost the only game they had any control over.
They find themselves in a similar position as 2007 winds down.
They need to win their final two games and receive help from others, with the easiest being Cleveland losing to Cincinnati on Sunday.
A Cincinnati win would put the Titans (8-6) back in control for the AFC’s final wild-card berth.
And the Titans will know that score before kicking off Sunday against the New York Jets (3-11).
“I told them I had the same crystal ball in my office, and I will bring it out next week,” Fisher said. “We must find a way to win this game.”
The local CBS affiliate here even switched broadcasts for the early game and will be showing that Cleveland-Cincinnati game instead of Indianapolis-Houston.
The TVs will be on in the Titans’ locker room as they loosen up for their kickoff at 3:15 p.m.
Tennessee center Kevin Mawae has a little experience with what his teammates will face against the New York AFC entry.
He was with the Jets when they needed New England to lose, and he said they were excited when they learned the final score.
“We get the score of the Cleveland game and it doesn’t turn out what we need, there’s still one other scenario that could play out,” he said. “We can only control what we can control, and that’s what happens Sunday.”
The Titans have had their chances to control their postseason trip.
They ruined a 6-2 start with three straight losses, then blew a 17-3 lead in losing to San Diego in overtime on Dec. 9.
They now have won two straight, including last week’s 26-17 victory in frigid Kansas City.
But they must prove they can finish off a season with their home finale against the Jets and a visit to Indianapolis and reigning SuperBowl MVP Peyton Manning.
“We’ll see what kind of team we’re going to finish off with,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “I know the word ‘resilient’ was used a lot early in the year. We need a lot of that to kick in.”
Fisher won’t let his Titans take the Jets for granted.
In case anyone stops studying New York after seeing the 3-11 record, the Tennessee coach has been busy reminding them how dangerous the Jets could be in regard to the Titans’ push for the postseason.
He has some good ammunition.
The Jets have lost five games by a touchdown or less this season and are coming off a 20-10 loss at New England where they held the Patriots to season lows in points, total offense (265) and passing yards (134).
They also held Tom Brady without a touchdown pass and picked him off once.
New York coach Eric Mangini isn’t expecting a hangover for his Jets.
“What we have to do is understand that that’s over with, and we can’t do anything about it,” he said. “We have to move on and focus on the Titans, because if we don’t, it’s not going to be real pretty.”
The Titans are banged-up after two physical games.
But they are averaging 134.6 yards rushing, which is fourth in the NFL, and LenDale White is 40 yards from his first 1,000-yard season.
Vince Young is coming off his highest passer rating this season after throwing for 191 yards and two TDs with no interceptions in Kansas City.
Young has been studying the Jets, who like to confuse quarterbacks by threatening blitzes.
New York has allowed only 158 yards passing since its bye week Nov. 11.
Unfortunately, the Jets are giving up 141.1 yards rushing and expect the Titans to try to run all over them with White, Chris Henry and Chris Brown.
New York safety Kerry Rhodes said they can’t ignore the mobile Young on the offensive side of the football.
“He can roll out, flick his wrist and throw the ball 60 yards down the field,” Rhodes said. “He’s a strong-armed guy, so once he gets out and breaks coverage, you have to stay back in coverage deep.”
The big question for the Jets is who starts at the quarterback position, with Titans Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth optimistic he will start himself.
Kellen Clemens didn’t return in New England with sore ribs, and Chad Pennington, the Knoxville native who is 2-0 against the Titans, might start after being benched the past six games.
“This may be a surprise game where I sneak in there and have a chance to play, but not have to deal with a lot of ticket requests because it’s a surprise,” Pennington said.
The Titans are 0-2 against the Jets since the former Houston Oilers took over the nickname New York started play with in 1960, including a 23-16 win to open last season when Pennington threw for 319 yards.
They’ve never had so much immediate incentive to beat the Jets as they do now with the playoff picture the way it is.
“If we don’t win, it really doesn’t matter at all,” Titans left tackle Michael Roos said. “It could be the end of the season this weekend, or we can continue the season. It’s up to us.”