The last thing the Tennessee Titans need to do is start to think too far down the road.
If nothing else, the last two seasons proved that things can change – sometimes dramatically – during the course of a 16-game season, either for the better or the worse.
When it comes to first place in the AFC South, though, they need only think as far as their next game.
Following Sunday’s bye, the Titans will return to work and begin preparations for the Oct. 23 contest against the Houston Texans. The winner will assume sole possession of first place.
Currently the Titans and Texans are tied for the division lead at 3-2. The other two teams, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, have one victory between them.
Houston plays Sunday at Baltimore.
“I think [the players] are going to be excited,” coach Mike Munchak said. “I think they are excited about where they are at. … But I think the excitement of what’s ahead of us and the position we are in … at 3-2 we are still sitting there with the Texans at this point and we come back and play them.
“I think that adds a lot of excitement to the return and knowing what’s in the future when we come back.”
Under former coach Jeff Fisher, the Titans enjoyed plenty of success coming off a bye.
They won four in a row prior to last season, when they went to Miami and lost 17-29. That was the second of six straight defeats and one of eight in the final nine contests after they started 5-2.
A year earlier they were 0-6 at the bye but won their first five after that, starting with a 30-13 rout of Jacksonville at home, and eight of the last 10 overall.
This season, though, new rules allow for less practice and meeting time than previously was permitted during off weeks.
“All of the changes in the rules have made it more difficult,” Munchak said. “The bye week when I played was a long week. You practiced three or four days in pads and got after it pretty good, you didn’t look forward to the bye week.
“Now it’s different, guys look forward to the bye week. You get a break, get away from it.”
They are well aware of what awaits them once they return.
The Colts have won the division five of the last six seasons but have yet to get their first victory this season.
The Titans are the only team other than Indianapolis to win the AFC South since it was created in 2002. They have done so twice, most recently 2008.
“I think our first goal is to win the division, so you are always going to keep focus on your division and what it’s going to take to win it,” Munchak said. “Winning every Sunday takes care of that but you are also going to keep an eye on what’s going on in the division and we know the Texans are our next division game that we play.
“Other than that, that’s probably it. You don’t really concentrate on them other than you want to kind of see where you’re positioning yourself. Everyone in our division still controls their own destiny and we are in a position to play and have a big game coming up here … against them.”