Glennon's Take: Five Key Questions for Titans Looking Ahead

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** A Titans team that hasn't lost at home since early September will be looking to take advantage of friendly surroundings once again this Sunday.

The Titans will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak and better their chances of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Here are five key questions for the Titans looking ahead to Sunday's game against the Rams:

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Is Marcus Mariota back on track? –** Heading into Sunday's game against San Francisco, Mariota had thrown for three touchdowns and eight interceptions in his previous four outings.

But Mariota was more efficient and productive than he had been in weeks against the 49ers, completing 23-of-33 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't throw any interceptions. At least one of Mariota's passes was dropped, and two or three other incompletions appeared to result from receivers not finishing their routes.

Even with those setbacks, Mariota posted a season-best 110.8 quarterback rating, completing 70 percent of his passes.

Sunday's loss marked just the second time in Mariota's career the Titans had fallen when he posted a quarterback rating of 100.0 or higher. They're now 11-2 in those instances, the only other loss coming at Indianapolis last year.

"I thought he moved the ball pretty well and put points on the board," Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. "That is all you can ask for from your quarterback."

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How much difference would a fast start make? –** Good things happen for the Titans when they get off to good starts.

They're 6-1 this season when they score first, 5-0 when leading after the first quarter and 5-1 when leading at the half.

But the Titans offense has been sluggish in the early going in recent weeks, as it's gone four straight games without a first-quarter touchdown. In those four contests, the Titans have averaged 8.25 points in the first half.

The last thing the Titans want to do against the high-scoring Rams is fall in an early hole, so a fast start by the offense would seem especially important.

The Titans did show last week they can string points together in a hurry, scoring 17 points on three successive drives against the 49ers.

"We're able to do those things," Mariota said. "We have the ability to score points and that's why it's been disappointing these last few weeks when we haven't been able to score on every single drive. That's our goal and we can go out there and do that. We've just got to go out there and do it on a consistent basis and help our defense out."

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Can the Titans knock off two straight winning opponents? –** The Titans face two formidable foes in the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville over the season's final two weekends.

The Rams come into Sunday's game tied with Philadelphia for first in the league in scoring, averaging 31.3 points per contest. At 10-4, the Rams hold a two-game lead over Seattle in the NFC West.

The following week brings the Jaguars, who are the top-ranked team in the league when it comes to scoring defense – allowing 14.9 points per contest. Jacksonville has already clinched a playoff berth.

But the Titans have fared well so far this season against teams with winning records, posting a 3-1 mark in those contests. The Titans have defeated Baltimore (8-6), Seattle (8-6) and Jacksonville (10-4) this season, losing to only Pittsburgh (11-3).

"We're still trying to (play consistently) for 60 minutes," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "There's been a couple games we've done that against good teams – the Seattles and the Jaguars, we've beaten earlier in the season. When we've done that, we're pretty good ... We just haven't done it consistently and we haven't done it lately."

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What's the playoff picture look like for the Titans? –** The Titans' odds of winning the AFC South aren't as good following Sunday's loss to the 49ers, but Tennessee – if it can turn things around – still has a strong chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Here are the Titan's current playoff odds, according to three websites: nytimes.com (69 percent), fivethirtyeight.com (64 percent), playoffstatus.com (62 percent).

The Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills are all 8-6 right now, potentially competing for a pair of wildcard positions.

A Titans win over the Rams on Sunday, combined with the most likely outcomes involving those two other teams – Buffalo losing at New England and Baltimore winning at home against Indianapolis – would increase Tennessee's odds of reaching the postseason to 81 percent, according to the New York Times' playoff forecaster.

"We are still in this," Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "We are going to win these next two and put ourselves in a position to get into the playoffs. At the end of the day, we know what we are all about at home, so we are going to take care of business."

Casey makes a good point, considering Tennessee's final two games are at Nissan Stadium, where the Titans have won nine of their last 10 contests.

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What are the biggest concerns the Rams present? –** The Titans' defense will be tested both on the ground and through the air.

Rams running back Todd Gurley has averaged 99 rushing yards per game during the team's last four contests, scoring five touchdowns during that stretch. Just for good measure, Gurley has also averaged over 50 receiving yards in those four games.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff has thrown for eight touchdowns and three interceptions over the last four weeks, posting a quarterback rating of 93 or better in each of those contests.

It's been quite an offensive turnaround this season for the Rams, who've jumped from the 32nd-ranked offense in 2016 to the ninth-ranked offense in 2017.

"If you want to just look at numbers, yeah it's very impressive, what they've done in all three of their phases," Mularkey said of the Rams.

-- Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.

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The Tennessee Titans take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15 at Levi's Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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