That’s a phrase that in recent years has been gone from the Tennessee Titans’ vocabulary by around Halloween.
But as the Christmas season approaches, here are the Titans squarely in the midst of a race for the AFC South, standing at 6-6 and tied with both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts with four games to play.
The fact that the Titans are in legitimate contention for the first time in five years – they were eliminated on the final week of the 2011 regular season – is not lost on players and coaches around St. Thomas Sports Park.
But it’s also not something they want to dwell on, especially with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos coming to town this Sunday.
“It’s good, but we’re not putting too much weight on it. Everything right now is tentative,” linebacker Derrick Morgan said. “We have to win our games and control our own destiny. We can’t get caught up in where we are now. We’ve got to take care of business on our end.”
It’s a practical and maybe even surprising approach, considering that Morgan is like all the home-grown Titans on the roster in that he has never experienced the postseason in his career, despite being a Titan since 2010.
The Titans’ ascent in the standings certainly has the player excited to be playing for something that means something from a team perspective, but to focus on that and not the game at hand against the Broncos would be missing mark.
“It definitely means a lot, but it’s not something we’re paying a whole lot of attention to. We’re just focused on going out and taking care of business,” said defensive end Jurrell Casey, another Titan whom the postseason has eluded.
Coach Mike Mularkey began driving home that point when the Titans arrived back at the facility after their bye week, one in which they grabbed a share of first without even taking the field as Green Bay knocked off Houston.
“We can’t control anything other than next Sunday against Denver, just like we were all off this week when Houston lost. We had nothing to do with that, and we have nothing to do with what happens tonight. We’ve got to take care of our business, and that’s Denver,” Mularkey said.
ended their bye week as a first-place team for the first time this late in a season in eight years on Sunday.
Despite having the weekend off, the Titans ascended into a first-place tie in the mediocre AFC South, thanks to the Houston Texans’ loss to Green Bay at snowy Lambeau Field on Sunday.
That loss as the Titans and Texans in a first-place tie in the division at 6-6 and the Indianapolis Colts looking to join them if they can win Monday night against the New York Jets.
Sure, the Titans’ record probably should have the label bonafide playoff contender attached to it, but in the AFC South and for a team that won just five games the previous two years, this is a major leap forward.
For some, like 2010 first-round pick Derrick Morgan, this is the first time in his career he has been a part of a first-place team beyond the first couple of weeks of the season.
Likewise, Jurrell Casey said the feeling is good, but that is not yet the focus of the Titans, who have a major challenge this week against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Those players – even though they could be tasting the postseason for the first time if things break right over the final four games – appear to be following the lead put out by Coach Mike Mularkey as he addressed the team Monday coming back from the bye week.
The Titans brought back linebacker J.R. Tavai to their practice squad on Tuesday for his third go-around with the club.
Tavai, an undrafted rookie from Southern Cal, originally was with the club in 2015. He suffered a knee injury that year, but returned to the team later that season on the practice squad and eventually for four game in the regular season last year.
Tavai was cut in camp this year and then re-signed on Tuesday. The spot on the practice squad came open when Justin Staples was added to the active roster after Kevin Dodd was placed on injured reserve.