MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - The Tennessee Titans fancied themselves as ready to make a move not only in the AFC South, but into the upper echelon of the NFL over the second half of the season.
After all, this was a Titans team that entered Sunday tied for the division lead with Indianapolis and had just added star receiver Randy Moss to the fold.
But Sunday's 29-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins now has the Titans wondering exactly where this team is heading with seven games left. At 5-4, the Titans are still in the thick of the playoff chase, but Sunday marked yet another opportunity lost.
Much has been made of Jeff Fisher and the Titans' 12-game winning streak against the NFC, but that doesn't count for much when tiebreakers come into play. What's more important is the Titans now find themselves 2-4 inside the AFC with Sunday's loss to the Dolphins. That is magnified by an earlier loss at home to Denver in the “simply inexplicable” category.
“You hate to lose that one, especially to a team that I feel like we were better than. But that's just how it goes,” Scaife said. “You've got to go out there and play and settle everything on the field, and they just made more plays than us.”
The reality is the Titans might be more talented than the Dolphins, but they have exactly the same record and now lose out on any head-to-head tiebreaker that might come into play in December.
Ditto if they wind up in that same scenario against Pittsburgh and San Diego at the end of the season.
It's not nearly as bad as last year's 0-6 hole, but the Titans have to start winning conference games in order to remain a contender and control their destiny in the playoff chase.
“We try to win no matter who we play against. It's unfortunate that all our losses are against AFC opponents,” safety Chris Hope said.
Speaking of the term “hope,” the Titans' best hope now is to take control of a division that has all four AFC South teams separated by just two games.
The good news for the Titans might also be the bad news. Tennessee has five division games left in the final six-game stretch after Sunday's home game with Washington. That's a tall order to handle, but the opportunity is there.
Just ask guard Jake Scott.
“We still have zero division losses, and that's the easiest way to get in,” he said.