NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans (7-7) play their final home game of the 2011 season this week, as they host the AFC South-rival Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) in a Christmas Eve matchup. Kickoff at LP Field (capacity 69,143) is scheduled for noon CST on Saturday, Dec. 24.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Titans are still alive in the playoff chase but must win to preserve their chances. With the the AFC South Championship already clinched by the Houston Texans, the Titans' path to the postseason would have to be as a Wild Card. Aside from the Texans, the New England Patriots (11-3) have clinched the AFC East, while the Baltimore Ravens (10-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3 prior to Monday night's game) have clinched playoff berths and are battling for the North crown. In the West, all four teams are alive, with the Denver Broncos (8-6) ahead of the Oakland Raiders (7-7), San Diego Chargers (7-7) and Kansas City Chiefs (6-8). The New York Jets (8-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) are the remaining two Wild Card hopefuls. Four division winners and two Wild Card teams advance from each conference.
Their game against the Jaguars is the Titans' second of three consecutive battles with division opponents. They visited Indianapolis last week and conclude the season next week with a trip to Houston.
The Titans are hoping for a different result from their first meeting with the Jaguars this year. The Mike Munchak head-coaching era began in Jacksonville in Week 1 with a loss. After falling behind 13-0 in the third quarter, the Titans rallied to get within two points of the Jaguars. But a late interception in Jaguars territory thwarted the Titans' final drive, and they fell by a final score of 16-14. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, making his debut in a Titans uniform, passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver Kenny Britt.
This week's game will be televised regionally on CBS, including Nashville affiliate WTVF NewsChannel 5. Bill Macateewill handle play-by-play duties, while Steve Tasker provides analysis.
The Titans Radio Network, including Nashville flagship 104.5 The Zone, will broadcast the game across the Mid-South with the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith, analyst Frank Wycheck, sideline reporter Cody Allison and gameday host Larry Stone.
The Titans suffered a 27-13 setback last week against the previously winless Indianapolis Colts. Colts running back Donald Brown rushed for 161 yards on 16 carries, including a late 80-yard touchdown run that helped put the contest out of reach for the Titans.
Titans rookie quarterback Jake Locker has come off the bench in each of the last two games and in three of the last five games for Matt Hasselbeck, who suffered an elbow injury on Nov. 20 at Atlanta and a calf injury Dec. 11 against New Orleans. Locker found Nate Washington for a seven-yard score against the Colts, the fourth time the duo has connected for a touchdown in Locker's limited action.
Hasselbeck, who has started every game in his 13th NFL season and his first campain in Tennessee, needs 76 passing yards to give him his eighth career 3,000-yard passing season.
The Jaguars will have nine days to prepare for this week's contest. Last week they traveled to Atlanta, where they were defeated by a final score of 41-14. In the loss, running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 112 yards, giving him a league-high 1,334 yards in 2011.
The Jaguars are in the midst of significant organizational change. Team ownership is in transition from Wayne Weaver, who has led the club since its expansion season of 1995, to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan. The official transfer is expected to take place in January.
Additionally, the Jaguars and long-time head coach Jack Del Rio parted ways on Nov. 29. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was named interim head coach for the remainder of the 2011 season.