Jacksonville (2-7) at Tennessee (7-2)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Nashville, TN
Temp: 86° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Nov 16, 2003
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The streaking Tennessee Titans have their sights set on a trip to Houston in January.

After moving into a first-place tie with Indianapolis in the AFC South, the Titans go for their fifth straight victory and eighth consecutive home win when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“We keep getting better and healthy, I think we have a chance to be at the top and Super Bowl contenders for real,” safety Lance Schulters said. “Legitimate Super Bowl contenders.”

Tennessee put together another strong all-around effort last week, becoming just the third team to score 30 points in six straight games with a 31-7 rout of Miami. St. Louis accomplished the feat in 1999 and 2000, and San Diego did it in 1982.

Steve McNair threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee gained 324 yards to complement a defense that surrendered just 224—including 37 to Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.

McNair is the NFL’s highest-rated passer and has thrown for 2,179 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions in leading the Titans to their first 7-2 start since 1999—when they lost to St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV.

“We’re playing with the MVP of the league, so we got that in our back pocket and that helps,” said Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, casting an early vote for McNair.

The quarterback leads an offense that lead the NFL in time of possession at 33:42 and has allowed the second-fewest points with 255.

Defensive end Jevon Kearse, meanwhile, anchors the league’s best run defense with 73.6 yards allowed per game.

“I will let the Super Bowl take care of itself. We don’t want to jump too far,” McNair said. “We have a lot of games left, but right now we are playing well. … As long as we take care of business week in and week out, who knows?”

The Titans pulled into a tie for the AFC South lead with Indianapolis, which lost 28-23 to Jacksonville last week. Tennessee is playing like a different team than the one that fell 33-7 to the Colts on Sept. 14, and the Titans host the Colts on Dec. 16.

“I guess the race is on as far as the players are concerned,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

The Titans have not lost at The Coliseum since Oct. 13, 2002. They’re 27-8 in Nashville, tying them with the Rams for the second-most home wins since 1999. Green Bay is 28-7 at home during that span.

The Jaguars helped the Titans’ cause Sunday and snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Colts, but head to Nashville with an 0-4 road record and a roster that has been remade since they battled Tennessee in the 1999 AFC championship game.

Jacksonville is 19-29 since that loss and has failed to reach the playoffs the last three seasons.

Fred Taylor ran for a season-high 152 yards against the Colts, but may have a hard time duplicating that performance against the Titans, who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 straight home games.

After promising a big game, Taylor delivered the winning 32-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left in his first 100-yard performance since a loss at Indianapolis on Sept. 21.

“He spoke out this week, which doesn’t happen too often,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “What we talked about as a team is, when one of our guys puts himself out there, we have to back him up.”

Rookie Byron Leftwich finished 12-for-22 for 179 yards and was turnover-free after committing 15 in his first five starts, helping the Jags to gain their first win over the Colts.

Leftwich’s receiving crops will likely be a bit short-handed after J.J. Stokes, a disappointment with only 13 receptions, was released to make way for Kevin Johnson.

Signed days after being released by Cleveland, Johnson missed practice while he got his physical Thursday, making it “unlikely” he will play this weekend, Del Rio said.

Johnson topped the Browns in receiving since 1999, and led them this season with 41 catches for 381 yards before losing his starting job.

The Jaguars will be trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 10-17, 2002, when they defeated Washington and Houston.

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