As the Tennessee Titans prepare to face the Houston Texans with their playoff life clinging by a thread, Coach Mike Munchak is thankful that his club won't have to scoreboard watch during the game.
The Titans face Houston at noon, which could help keep the focus on the field and off the games involving other contenders Sunday.
Yes, the Titans need plenty of help to make it into the playoffs as a 9-7 wild-card, but only one other game that involves their situation will be played at noon on Sunday – the New York Jets at the Miami Dolphins.
Thanks to geography and the scheduling by CBS and the NFL, the three other games that involve Tennessee's playoff fate don't start until 3:15 p.m. CST. That way, it helps the Titans not to scoreboard watch, but to simply try and take care of their own business, and watch the other situations unfold in the late afternoon. That's because the Baltimore-Cincinnati, Kansas City-Denver and San Diego-Oakland games begin at 3:15 p.m.
“I think it's good in the fact that you're not eliminated. Teams yesterday got eliminated as the game was being played,” Munchak said. “I think Philadelphia was officially eliminated and Dallas knew their situation in the first quarter of the game, that they had to beat the Giants to win the division anyway, that it didn't matter what happened in that game. All of a sudden that affects the game. Like it or not, when you're out there and you're playing a football game, and you hear you're done, that's hard to take for a second.”
The Titans need a three-way tie of any sorts between themselves, the Cincinnati Bengals, Jets or Oakland Raiders to reach the postseason. A two-way tie with Cincinnati, which is 9-6 and hosting Baltimore, eliminates Tennessee based on head-to-head play with the Bengals. A four-way tie with the Bengals, Jets and Raiders propels Oakland into the postseason based on strength of victory.
But any three-way tie, puts the Titans in on best record among common opponents.
As the schedule is set, the Titans can try to win their game, knowing they still have life once the game ends, if they are victorious.
“I think it's nice to know that no matter what happens, we're playing at noon. We're in it to win it, and if we win it, we're going to assume we have a chance to be in it versus watching the scoreboard,” Munchak said. “The scoreboard doesn't matter for us. It won't because we have to win, and obviously afterward, then it is a concern. I think that's a good thing, knowing you can just go out and play and play your best and look at it later to see what happens.”
The Titans might gain some small advantage in that the Texans are locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC with no chance of moving up or down in the seedings. With that, Houston might look to rest some starters and treat the game almost with a preseason approach, finishing with reserves in the second half.
No matter that situation, and even the possibility that Tennessee, if it reaches the playoffs, would have to go right back to Reliant Stadium next week, the Titans will go all out on Sunday just to try and get in.
“We've got to throw everything we have. We know what happened last time we played them. We didn't play very well,” Munchak said. “They played very well and beat us pretty soundly at home. … We have to do everything it takes to win in our situation. We can't save anything for a week later. We hope we have that problem. We'll take that gladly.”