NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The best part of a weekend off for the Tennessee Titans is simple: They're not out of the playoffs yet despite their six-game skid.
The Titans could be mathematically eliminated with their next loss. They also need plenty of help, but the Titans could win the AFC South if they win out starting Sunday when Houston visits in Tennessee's regular season home finale.
Coach Jeff Fisher joked Monday he had called each and every one of his players over the weekend to alert them that they remain alive for the postseason. He gave his Titans (5-8) the weekend off after a 30-28 loss to Indianapolis on Dec. 9, and they aren't due back at work until Tuesday.
"We're still mathematically alive," Fisher said. "There is still a chance, so you just keep playing."
The Titans are three games back of division leader Jacksonville (8-5), but they at least split the season series with the Jaguars. Tennessee could split with Houston if the Titans win Sunday, and they then visit Kansas City (8-5) and wrap up the regular season in Indianapolis (7-6) on Jan. 2.
One thing's for certain. If the Titans lose Sunday, it will be their longest skid as a franchise since dropping 11 straight in 1994 as the then-Houston Oilers. That was the season Fisher was promoted to head coach when Jack Pardee was fired after a 1-9 start.
Winning just one game is the Titans' biggest challenge, and they should have plenty of motivation Sunday playing the team that shut them out 20-0 on Nov. 28. Kerry Collins will start this time after sitting out the first game between these teams with a strained left calf, a game in which rookie Rusty Smith made his first NFL start.
Smith was picked off three times by the Texans cornerback Glover Quin and was 17 of 31 for 138 yards with a passer rating of 26.7. Compare that to Collins, who has started the past two games and was 28 of 39 for 244 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 113.6 in the loss to the loss to the Colts.
This also is the game already being called "The Rematch" after Texans receiver Andre Johnson brawled with Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, throwing three punches at his head in the fourth quarter of that game. Both men were fined $25,000 by the NFL.
Fisher plans to put Finnegan on Johnson throughout the game again, and he isn't planning on having a special talk with Finnegan before kickoff about keeping his composure.
"I don't think he got drawn into anything last time around," Fisher said. "I think maybe someone needs to talk to Andre Johnson about that. Cortland is going to line up and play and do his best to help us win and play good defense."
Fisher has mentioned looking at some younger, and healthier players. He hasn't had a chance to discuss any specific changes with his veterans yet, and options are rather limited.
The battered defensive line offers the possibility of options. The Titans have just nine sacks in this six-game skid compared to 25 through the first seven. Tackle Tony Brown has been playing despite not being able to practice because of a right knee he had surgically repaired in the offseason. But Sen'Derrick Marks has missed the last two games with a sprained right ankle.
Fisher said he expects the Titans to come back and have fun coming off their long break.
Tennessee's biggest advantage might be the rest. The Texans are hosting Baltimore on Monday night, then have to travel Saturday to Tennessee.
"We're just going to have to wait and see," Fisher said of any advantage. "Traveling, going on the road after a Monday night in itself is quite a challenge."
Not as much as breaking a six-game skid.