As it stands right now, the Tennessee Titans are on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff positions.
The fact that this Sunday’s game against New Orleans (noon, Fox) is outside, though, might just help in their quest to put themselves in line for one of the conference’s two wild card spots or possibly even a division title.
The Saints, after all, play their home games in a dome. Thanks to an unlikely coincidence in their schedule, it has been nearly two months since they played in the elements.
“It just happens that we played a couple of away games in domes as well at Atlanta and at St. Louis,” New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said. “For us you can’t control the weather or where you are playing or the conditions, so you try to handle it the best you can, you try to simulate it as much as you can in practice and that kind of thing.
“For us I think it is about being consistent no matter where we are playing or what the weather conditions are.”
It is a nice idea. It is not, however, necessarily reality.
The Saints have the NFC’s third-best record at 9-3 and are a perfect 6-0 at home (one of three teams in the NFL without a home loss), but are 3-3 on the road, including 2-2 in outdoor games. The last time they played outdoors, Oct. 16, they lost 26-20 at Tampa Bay, a team that has not won anywhere, anytime since.
Even Brees, one of the league’s top-rated quarterbacks, has seen a noticeable difference. He has thrown 20 touchdown passes with three interceptions in the six home games. On the road, he has thrown 10 touchdown passes with eight interceptions.
“I don’t think it matters where they play,” Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. “There’s no doubt playing indoors for offense is a little better situation because the elements are perfect conditions, but they’re a great team no matter where they play. We know that.
“The advantage we have is they’re playing at our place, with our crowd and our enthusiasm. We’re hoping that’s the advantage we pick up in this game.”
The Titans are 4-2 at LP Field, which already is one more victory than they had there in all of 2010.
“Playing a team like that on the road and us getting outside of the indoor areas that we played — just with the schedule the way it has shaken out that the last game we played outdoors was in Tampa seven weeks ago,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “Then it was Indianapolis at home inside, St. Louis on the road inside, back for three more home games inside, at Atlanta inside.
“We are going to have to quickly get acclimated to the weather, the footing, the conditions and be able to handle that challenge on the road against a good team.”
Sunday’s forecast is for a clear, cool day with the temperature in the 40s — not exactly inclement.
Regardless, there won’t be a roof overhead, and for the Saints that is something different.
“I never saw it as a big deal,” Munchak, whose home field for his entire playing career was the Houston Astrodome, said. “I thought people made more out of that. I think that’s something people look for some stat to throw out.
“The bottom line to me is they’re 3-3 on the road. Usually, when you go in before a season starts, you sit there and go, ‘Well, if we can go 8-0 at home and we split on the road, go 4-4, then we have 12 wins,’ and you’re pretty happy about that. I think they’re kind of doing exactly [that].”
In this case, that means the Titans have them right where they want them.