Having won 4 of 5, Titans have chance to control AFC South

NFL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Tennessee Titans are getting on a roll right when the NFL schedule puts them in position to control the AFC South.

The Titans (6-5) have won four of their last five, the latest a 42-20 blowout of Jacksonville with their best offensive performance this season. Ryan Tannehill is playing better than he ever has, and the defense has held eight opponents to 20 points or less this season.

Next is a trip Sunday to Indianapolis (6-5), one of the teams ahead of Tennessee in the AFC playoff chase. The Titans have yet to play division leader Houston (7-4), and the Titans also visit Oakland (6-5), another team ahead of them just outside the AFC’s final wild-card spot.

”It’s going to give us a great opportunity to try to pick off the next team that really that’s in front of us,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.

WHAT’S WORKING

The offense with Tannehill and first-year coordinator Arthur Smith had its most productive game with a season-high 471 yards on just 52 plays for a whopping 9.1-yard average gained per play. They also topped 200 yards rushing for a second straight game. Derrick Henry now is fourth in the NFL with 991 yards rushing.

The Titans lead the NFL in scoring touchdowns inside an opponent’s 20 at 72.4 percent, and they have scored on 13 of their last 14 red zone trips. They’ve also scored 77 points combined over the past two games.

”If our offense looks like that, we’re going to be the best offense in the league,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. ”It’s about being consistent, establishing the run game, and you’re not always going to score 42 points, but the job is to extend drives. Even when we weren’t scoring, we were getting the ball down the field and giving Arthur a chance to open up the playbook.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The pass defense. The Titans came up with three sacks but gave up 272 yards passing with the Jaguars trying to rally. That’s a game after giving up 448 yards passing to Patrick Mahomes. Tennessee now has dipped to 24th against the pass, the worst this season.

”Gave up too many points,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. ”It’s tough when you get up like that, and you’re kind of playing the time game. Still, I don’t like it when they move the ball on us.”

STOCK UP

Tannehill. The quarterback Miami traded away in March now is 4-1 since the Titans made him the starter. He now leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with a 111.4 passer rating. He also leads the league gaining an average 9.22 yards per pass after having five passes of 20 yards or longer against the Jaguars.

The quarterback who becomes a free agent in March keeps adding numbers to his next contract.

STOCK DOWN

Ryan Succop. Being a bit picky as the Titans allowed 157 yards on kickoff returns with the veteran kicker getting the ball past the goal line only once. The Jaguars started better than their 25 four times, though linebacker Daren Bates stripped and recovered the ball on the fourth kickoff.

INJURED

Vrabel had no update on cornerback LeShaun Sims, who did not return after hurting an ankle, or on tight end Delanie Walker (ankle), who missed his fourth straight game.

KEY NUMBER

155.8 – Tannehill’s passer rating against the Jaguars, just a shade off perfect.

NEXT STEPS

The Titans must show they can win on the road after going 2-3 away from Nashville. They are 2-14 in the last 16 trips to Indianapolis, though Vrabel said the past has no bearing on what happens this week. Then they go to Oakland before a two-game home stand hosting Houston and New Orleans. That could set up a pivotal regular-season finale in Houston.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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