Hope Remains

After earning a key road victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Tennessee Titans still need to win both of their remaining games and get some help to qualify for postseason play.

They'll try to take the first step Sunday when they host the struggling New York Jets.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee -9 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 37 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 57% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee -9 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

The Titans (8-6) seemed to be a lock for the playoffs after a 6-2 start, but now find themselves needing a home win over the Jets (3-11) and a victory at Indianapolis on Dec. 30 - coupled with help from other teams - in order to earn a wild-card spot.

"We've just got to take care of our own business," Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said.

The Titans did that last week, winning 26-17 at Kansas City behind a pair of touchdown passes from Vince Young to Roydell Williams and four field goals from Rob Bironas.

Young completed 16 of 26 passes for 191 yards and the two scores, a week after going 13-for-21 for 121 yards and two interceptions in a 23-17 loss to San Diego. That was Tennessee's fourth defeat in five games.

The Titans desperately need another solid outing from Young, who has struggled in his second season with nine TDs and 16 picks.

He'll have to contend with a Jets secondary that has shown vast improvement. New York is allowing an average of 172.3 passing yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions over the last six games, after a dismal first half of the season in which it gave up 245.9 passing yards per game with 12 TDs and six picks.

The pass defense was solid again last week, holding New England's Tom Brady to 14-of-27 for 140 yards along with an interception, although the Jets lost 20-10 at Gillette Stadium.

Facing a resurgent Jets secondary, a shaky Young and the Titans may continue to depend on a ground game led by LenDale White, who has rushed for 206 yards during the last two games. He ran for 93 yards against the Chiefs and has 960 on the year.

The Jets' run defense is ranked 30th in the league at 141.1 yards allowed per game, better than only Oakland (143.8) and Miami (155.9).

While Tennessee's offensive problems have contributed to the team's slide, the defense has been a constant. The unit is ranked fifth in the league, yielding an average of 298.2 yards per game - 97.4 on the ground. Tennessee is tied with Seattle for second overall with 20 interceptions, and nine Titans have picked off passes. Linebacker Keith Bulluck leads the team with four.

The Titans could get a further boost on defense if tackle Albert Haynesworth can go after not playing last week due to a nagging hamstring injury.

"Albert just had a difficult time getting loose, I think because of the weather conditions," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "He didn't have any setbacks. We've kind of been optimistic about the potential for him to practice."

Haynesworth, elected to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday, is one of Tennessee's top run stoppers and second on the team with six sacks, three behind Vanden Bosch. He didn't practice Wednesday, but was optimistic he would be able to start Sunday after visiting an Atlanta chiropractor.

Tennessee, though, won't have middle linebacker Ryan Fowler, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. He'll be replaced by Stephen Tulloch.

``Ryan Fowler's shoulder was such it would not allow him to play,'' Fisher said.

The Titans defense will try to take advantage of a shaky New York offensive line that has permitted 44 sacks, among the most in the league.

That poor protection resulted in an injury to Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens last week, as he hurt his ribs after being slammed to the turf by Richard Seymour on his first pass attempt, which was intercepted.

Clemens' status for Sunday is uncertain, which could give Chad Pennington his first start since an Oct. 28 loss to Buffalo.

``It's really health-related,'' said Mangini, who added that Clemens would start if he recovers in time and is mentally and physically prepared. ``We've got to see where Kellen is, see what he can do in terms of practice throughout the course of the week, where he is at the end of the week with his ability to function effectively. So, all of that stuff will go into the equation when we are deciding.''

Pennington, who completed 25 of 38 passes for 186 yards in relief last week, struggled this season before being supplanted as the starter by Clemens. Pennington completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,317 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first seven games before Mangini made the switch.

Clemens has shown promise at times, leading New York to a 19-16 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. The second-year player, though, has exhibited the inconsistency of a young quarterback, throwing four TDs with eight INTs.

"I think Kellen has done a lot of good things and there's a lot of things that he's still growing into and learning about with experience," Mangini said. "That's common with any young player."

The Jets have won their last three games against the Titans, including a 23-16 victory Sept. 10, 2006. They last lost to the Tennessee franchise Dec. 1, 1996, falling 35-10 to the Houston Oilers.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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