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NFL Preview - NY Jets (6-7) at Tennessee (4-9)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Against all odds, the New York Jets and their anemic offense remain in the AFC's playoff picture.
The Jets need to win out, however, starting Monday in Tennessee.
New York will also need plenty of help to catch Cincinnati or Pittsburgh but have already started what it hopes is a late-season surge, winning for the second time in a row in Jacksonville during Week 14.
"I'll watch (them)," Jets coach Rex Ryan said when asked he would be paying attention to what the Steelers and Bengals do, "but I don't think you can get emotionally invested because you have to go out and do your job or it makes no difference. You can watch it and you can be cheering for whoever but, at the end of the day, you have to take care of your business. That's where our energy needs to be focused."
Cincinnati topped Philadelphia on Thursday and currently holds the sixth and final spot in the AFC playoff picture while the Steelers lost at Dallas on Sunday, falling to 7-7, one game behind the Bengals and just one-half game clear of New York.
Of course nothing matters if New York fails to win in Nashville on Monday Night Football. A setback means the Jets are officially eliminated.
Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell kept hope alive for the Jets in Week 14 by each rushing for a touchdown as New York held on for a 17-10 victory in Jacksonville.
Greene rushed for 77 yards on 20 carries while Powell amassed 78 yards on 19 rushes for New York, which was coming off a 7-6 win over Arizona and has strung together consecutive victories for the first time all season.
"We're confident, we think we're getting better as a team," said Ryan. "We've won three out of four so I think we're feeling better about ourselves. We still have to get better in a lot of areas but off a win you feel a lot better about making those corrections than off a loss."
A week after being pulled against the Cardinals, Mark Sanchez was asked to manage the game against the lowly Jags and did so somewhat effectively. He fumbled in the first half but connected on 12-of-19 throws overall for just 111 yards, and completed a 37-yard strike late in the contest to force Jacksonville to use all three of its timeouts.
The Titans, meanwhile, are just playing out the string, losing for the third straight time in Indianapolis during Week 14 when Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to lift the Colts to a 27-23 victory over Tennessee.
Jake Locker threw for 262 yards on 22-of-35 passing with a touchdown and a pair of costly second-half interceptions as Tennessee played competitively but remained winless (0-5) in the AFC South.
"It's another disappointing loss," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We played a good, solid first half in a lot of ways, but let them get back in the game in the second half."
The Titans lead the all-time series 21-17-1 but the Jets has won four of the last five.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Ryan has been robbed of his swagger by his team's tortured offense, which has managed just 559 total yards -- 216 of that through the air -- during the Jets' two-game winning streak.
"I'm not going to guarantee a playoff spot," the coach said. "I think part of that is, look, the fact that we're one game under .500, I think you're probably not in the playoff conversation."
The once braggadocios Ryan has certainly toned it down in recent weeks but with Tennessee as well as lightweights San Diego and Buffalo left on the Jets schedule, a 9-7 finish is at least plausible.
"We just need to keep our head down and keep winning games," Ryan said. "We know the only way we can affect it is to win our games and then we'll see what somebody tells us."
Sanchez has struggled mightily this season but will be getting some help this week after the Jets claimed veteran receiver Braylon Edwards off waivers from Seattle.
Edwards was a former member of the Jets when the team reached the AFC Championship Game in both 2009 and '10, but failed in stops with San Francisco and the Seahawks. The enigmatic wideout is an upgrade here, however, since New York hasn't really had an outside the numbers threat since Santonio Holmes went down.
"He's one of those guys that he just knows how to run routes, he's played for a long time, he understands coverages and he picks up things quickly," Sanchez said. "I know he'll pick up the system fast, a sharp guy. We're excited to have him back and that will only help the rest of the guys."
Edwards is also a Sanchez supporter and went to Twitter to defend the embattled signal-caller after he was benched against Arizona.
"I played there," Edwards wrote. "Blame the idiots calling shots. Mark is a beast and will (prove) it when given a proper chance."
With or without Sanchez playing well the Jets will look to the running game, which has averaged over 170 yards per game over the past two weeks. That bodes well against a Tennessee team which gives up an average of 127.0 rushing yards, 23rd in the NFL.
"A lot of them (are) pretty young guys, but so athletic," Sanchez said when talking about the Tennessee D. "They play beyond their years. They're a sharp group in the last really two or three weeks, they really tighten up on third down and it'll be a tough test for us at their place on Monday night."
The Titans also tend to struggle offensively but Locker is averaging 305.3 passing yards per game at home in 2012. Things only get tougher from here though since the team lost tight end Jared Cook, who is second on the club in receptions (44) and third in yards (523), to a torn right rotator cuff.
The Titans will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season and Munchak has already been put on notice, meaning Tennessee won't exactly be calling it quits in the final weeks.
"That's not my worry or my decision," Munchak said of his future job prospects. "My job is to get these guys, we have to win football games. I get that. But I think it's all about, for me, is knowing that we're heading in the right direction. I feel we're doing that."
On the other hand somehow the Jets remain in the AFC playoff hunt and have generally handled Tennessee in recent years. Expect that trend to continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 20, Titans 13
12/17 09:04:00 ET
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