With quarterback Jake Locker close to full strength and running back Chris Johnson back to All-Pro form, the Tennessee Titans haven't given up trying to sneak into the playoff picture.
Having two games left against the Jacksonville Jaguars certainly shouldn't hurt their cause.
With little margin for error, well-rested Tennessee heads to Jacksonville on Sunday looking to take advantage of a Jaguars team that's coming off a wild overtime defeat.
Tennessee trails wild-card leaders Pittsburgh and Indianapolis by two games, but coach Mike Munchak believes his team has a chance to make a seemingly improbable run to the postseason.
"It seems to happen every year in the league,' Munchak said. "This is our opportunity, our chance to be that team. That's how they have to believe it, that's how they have to work."
Coming off their bye, the Titans (4-6) will try to string some wins together after snapping a two-game skid with a 37-3 victory at Miami on Nov. 11. It was the team's most lopsided win since a 47-7 romp over St. Louis on Dec. 13, 2009.
The Titans could be in for another big day offensively against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 31.3 points during its seven-game losing streak.
Having three-time Pro Bowler Chris Johnson back to his old self should help. Johnson, who averaged 42.0 yards and 2.9 per carry in his first five games, has run for 130.4 per game on 6.7 per touch to help the Titans win three of their last five.
He's likely to find more room to run against the Jaguars (1-9), who allow 137.3 yards per game on the ground - 29th in the NFL.
Tennessee also should have a nearly 100 percent Locker under center after he returned from a five-game absence and completed 9 of 21 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins in his first career road win.
Locker, who hadn't played since injuring his left shoulder against the Texans on Sept. 30, should be confident facing a Jacksonville secondary that allowed five touchdowns and 527 passing yards -- tied for the second most in NFL history -- to Houston's Matt Schaub in a 43-37 overtime loss on Sunday.
"It doesn't feel any better or worse than it did going into the Miami game," Locker said of his shoulder. "It feels strong and I expect it to be that way the rest of the year."
While the Titans have their QB back, the Jaguars lost starter Blaine Gabbert for the season when he suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter against the Texans.
Gabbert, who has started all 10 games for Jacksonville, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Even before coach Mike Mularkey knew the severity of Gabbert's injury, he'd already named Chad Henne the starter after the former second-round pick stepped in and completed 16 of 33 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns in Houston.
"He just came out and made a lot of things happen, and that's what we're looking for,' Mularkey said. "Just to try to find the production that's going to help us win the game.'
Henne, who will make his fifth appearance this season, has a career 13-18 record as a starter with 30 touchdowns and 35 interceptions -- all during his four previous seasons with Miami.
Justin Blackmon emerged as Henne's favorite target and looks to build off his breakout effort on Sunday. The No. 5 overall pick reeled in seven catches for 236 yards and a touchdown against Houston -- nearly matching his season total of 250 receiving yards entering the contest.
The Jaguars, trying to avoid the first eight-game losing streak in franchise history, have a chance to continue last week's success against a Tennessee defense that has allowed 30 points or more in seven of its 10 games.
Jacksonville, though, is still without two key weapons. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) is likely to miss at least one more game while receiver Laurent Robinson was placed on IR after sustaining his fourth concussion of the season.
The teams split their 2011 meetings, each winning at home.
The Associated Press News Service
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