That makes their latest meeting appear to be one of the week’s biggest mismatches, with Steve McNair and the Titans taking on the woeful Jaguars at Alltel Stadium.
Tennessee easily defeated Jacksonville 33-14 on Jan. 23, 2000 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars’ only three losses that season came to the Titans.
Jacksonville has had many more since then, enduring three straight losing seasons and getting off to a dismal 1-5 start in 2003—tied with San Diego for the AFC’s worst record. Tennessee has made the playoffs every year since that title game, including another trip to the AFC championship last season.
The Titans are tied for the AFC’s third-best record this year at 5-2.
“Nineteen ninety-nine is a long time ago. This team needs to go forward,” coach Jack Del Rio said of his Jaguars.
“We hope to make it a rivalry, but you have to earn that.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher may have helped that cause Monday. Whether it was meant to mock Del Rio or poke fun at the Jags, Fisher made a reference to a recent incident that landed Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson on injured reserve.
In an effort to motivate his team following an 0-3 start, Del Rio put a block of wood and an ax in the locker room and implemented the slogan, ‘Keep Chopping Wood’. Not long after that, Hanson tried to do just that, literally, and ended up striking himself in the leg and being taken to the emergency room.
“The big thing for this week is we’ve just got to keep chopping wood,” Fisher said Monday.
Fisher’s team has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the Jaguars, who are in their first season under Del Rio after the firing of Tom Coughlin.
“This has been the most successful team in our conference the last five years. This is clearly the team we’ll have to beat to have success around here,” Del Rio said of the Titans.
McNair is a major reason why Tennessee has had such success, though he’ll be trying to put aside a major distraction Sunday.
A judge ruled Tuesday that there was enough evidence for McNair’s case on drunken driving and weapons charges from his May 22 arrest to go to a grand jury.
“As long as I set my priorities straight, what happens off the football field stays off it, and once I come to practice and come to work, no problem,” McNair said.
“It’s been going on since it happened, and I haven’t let it happen so far. I think I’m doing a good job of handling it.”
The nine-year veteran may be having the best season of his NFL career. He’s thrown for a league-high 1,791 yards, leads the AFC with a 106.8 passer rating and is tied for the conference lead with 12 touchdown passes.
It’s a huge difference from his start last season, when McNair was plagued by turnovers and the Titans dropped four of their first five games.
Tennessee has scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games— something the team had not done since 1962—and the defense has scored in three of those contests.
“You can walk around with a smile on your face easier when things are going good at work,” said linebacker Keith Bulluck, who scored on a 32-yard fumble return in last week’s 37-17 rout of previously unbeaten Carolina.
“It’s like anyone else’s job. When you have a bad month or a bad couple months and things turn around … it helps for the camaraderie of this team and just helps us drive and want to be successful.”
Bulluck, the Titans’ leading tackler, will try to help hold rookie Byron Leftwich in check.
The former star at Marshall is looking to become the seventh quarterback since 1970 to account for at least one touchdown in the first six games of his career.