NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A familiar look has returned for Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota – his facial hair is back. Only this time the mustache has a beard to go with it.
A familiar opponent is also on the horizon -- the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Titans have won three straight games, and next up is a trip to EverBank Field. Mariota has faced the Jaguars three times in 26 career starts -- more than any other team – and he's had success.
"It's really helpful,'' Mariota said when asked how much the familiarity helps from a preparation standpoint. "It's the fourth time I've seen them, so there's certain things that you can kind of recognize, there's certain patterns that you've seen throughout the last few games that we've played. That's definitely helpful, but at the same time, they can come out and do something totally different. We have to be prepared for that and make sure that we communicate and identify and everyone's on the same page."
Mariota has five passing touchdowns vs. one interception for a 132.6 rating and 123 rushing yards with a rushing touchdown in his past two meetings against the Jaguars.
He completed 18-of-22 passes (81.8 percent) for 270 yards and two touchdowns with a 148.1 rating in the first meeting between the two teams back in October, which was won 36-22 by the Titans. The Titans are 2-1 in Mariota's three starts vs. the Jaguars.
With two games remaining in the season, the Titans are in the playoff hunt, and in control of their own destiny.
"It's exciting. It's a great opportunity," Mariota said. "We've just got to take it one day at a time. Nothing changes for us. Our mentality has been the same throughout the year. If we can continue to handle ourselves that way, I think we'll get to where we want to go.
"… I think (the Jaguars are) a great team. Sometimes the ball doesn't roll your way. They've had a lot of close games throughout the year that could have gone either way. We're not overlooking this at all. We expect a great game, and we know we're going to have to go out there and battle."
So, about that mustache, and beard.
If you recall, Mariota grew a mustache in November to raise money for charity. He ended up being named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month in November. Then the calendar flipped to December, and he shaved the mustache.
It turns out his superstitious teammates encouraged him to grow the facial hair back. At least that's a part of it, the quarterback explained on Tuesday, when he was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
"You know what, the quarterbacks kind of made me do it," a smiling Mariota said. "I'm buying into the group. It's kind of fun just to do things like that.
"There was several things. (Matt) Cassel always says I have a baby face, so he wants me to look a little older. But really, for us, it's just a lot of fun. They've talked about that they're a little superstitious, I guess. We've played well, so just got to keep it rolling. … I'm kind of diving into the whole thing (with the beard), so we'll see how it looks."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15 action at Arrowhead Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)