As they entered the bye week, the Tennessee Titans did not have to wonder where they stood in the AFC South. Even before Sunday’s games, the Titans knew they would start the second half of the season with no worse than a share of first place.
Now, they’ll finally get to see how they stack up against Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Houston.
The NFL changed its approach to scheduling this season in an attempt to create more meaningful games in the final two or three weeks of the season. The result for Tennessee was that all but one of the division games fell in the second half of the season. In fact, five of the final six contests, beginning Nov. 28 at Houston, ended up being divisional matchups. No other team in the league has such a concentration of division games at that time.
“We can control a lot of the outcome in the second part of the season because we’ve got five division games in the last eight,” coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Titans climbed to the top of the standings with five victories in their first eight contests. That included their 30-3 victory at Jacksonville on Oct. 18, the only game thus far against an AFC South opponent.
In two of their losses — to Denver and San Diego — they had the lead in the second half but failed to hold it.
“We weren’t pleased because of the Denver loss that put us 2-2 in the first quarter [of the season], but I think we have to put this one behind us because it’s not an easy loss — it’s one we could have won,” Fisher said. “But we still finished 3-1 in the second quarter, so we’ve had a couple games here that we’ve had a chance to win and we didn’t.”
The good news for the Titans is that the last five times they reached the halfway point at 5-3 or better, beginning with 1999, they ultimately made the playoffs. The last time they failed to do so was 1996, when they were still the Houston Oilers — and there was no AFC South.
“Certainly we’re in a good situation to start the second half of the season, knowing that all the pressure is going to come once we get in the division,” Fisher said. “So it will be an exciting second half.”