NASHVILLE — Win and in.
The Tennessee Titans can clinch the AFC South for the first time in six years and grab the accompanying playoff spot with a victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at LP Field.
After the Indianapolis Colts edged the Browns 10-6 on Sunday, it kept the Colts faint title hopes in the AFC South for another week.
A victory over the Browns would give the Titans their 12th win of the season, meaning that if the Colts won out and the Titans lost out to both finish 12-4, Tennessee would still claim the division championship based on the third overall tiebreaker.
Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker, and the Titans have a one-game lead in that regard. Tennessee also has a two-game edge in division games at 4-0, while Indianapolis is 2-2.
But even if the Colts pulled even in that regard, Tennessee would claim the division title based on the next tiebreaker, which is common opponents. Currently the Titans are 8-0 in games against teams the Colts have already played with a victory over the Detroit Lions ready to be counted as a ninth win once the Colts face them on Dec. 14.
Indianapolis, by contrast, is 5-3 with Sunday’s win over Cleveland waiting to be added to that total after the Titans face the Browns on Sunday. Should the Titans defeat Cleveland, it would give them 10 wins among common opponents, more than the Colts could attain even if they won out in their remaining games.
Jeff Fisher said the focus remains the same, even though Tennessee’s first preseason goal _ reaching the playoffs _ is within reach, perhaps as soon as Sunday.
“Our whole approach is no different. It’s just win the next game. That’s what it is. It’s all about Cleveland,” Fisher said. “If those things worked out than basically we just reached one of our goals and that’s everybody’s goal. If that’s the case then you push on and you prepare for the next week hoping to prepare for another one.”
The other issue at stake for the Titans is home-field advantage. The Titans hold a two-game edge over the 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers in that regard with the two clubs facing off at LP Field on Dec. 21.
BIG CONTRIBUTIONS: The Titans defensive line continues to spread the wealth when it comes to sacks. On Thanksgiving, Tennessee’s front four got to Detroit Lions quarterbacks four times with three of those coming courtesy of backup linemen.
Reserve end Dave Ball, who also had an interception return for a touchdown Thursday, had one of the four sacks, as did fellow backup end Jacob Ford and tackle Kevin Vickerson, who has been playing the past three weeks because of an injury to normal third tackle Jason Jones.
Ball now has 4.5 sacks this season, tied with Kyle Vanden Bosch, the man he replaced while Vanden Bosch was down with a groin injury, for second on the team.
“I think he clearly benefited from the work when Kyle was out,” Fisher said of Ball. “That work on Sunday in addition to the work during the week is what’s paying off for him now.”
Vickerson has been perhaps even more of a surprise, as he, like Ball, had been a long shot to make team out of training camp, but beat out 2007 draft pick Antonio Johnson to be the fourth defensive tackle.
That role meant being inactive most weeks, until an injury to Jones, allowed him to move up temporarily in the rotation. He has had a sack and a fumble recovery the past two games.
“It’s important that we continue to rotate our defensive linemen so Kevin is falling in the rotation and has been productive for us,” Fisher said. “He’s playing hard and I don’t know how long that’s going to last. Obviously, we certainly expect to get Jason back. He’s just another example of guys stepping up when we needed them.”
HEALTHY AND RESTED: Fisher indicated Friday that the Titans have no serious injuries other than the normal bumps and bruises that accompany playing. In addition, Jones should be back with the 10-day break. Titans players will get the remainder of the holiday weekend, plus Monday off. They report Tuesday for a workout with a normal week beginning Wednesday.