CHANDLER, Ariz. – Mike Mularkey insisted the Titans' confidence is high heading into the three games that will determine if they get a post-season berth.

It’s a good week to be away from Nashville, where the confidence is, understandably, much lower.

apple icon 114x114 precomposed“It’s the same team that won six out of seven prior to (Sunday),” Mularkey said in a conference call. “I’m pretty confident and I think our team is, in what we are doing. We know we can fix some things and clean up some things and knowing that if we don’t in all three phases we still have a chance to win every week, which we did yesterday all the way until the last drive.”

That’s too much satisfaction about having a chance to win and not enough disgust at a failure to win for me.

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At two crucial moments, Titans turned to ineffective gadgets

mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. -- Exotic reared its ugly head at two crucial moments for the Titans.

The Titans gave the ball to Eric Weems, a special teamer who's a wide receiver, on a fake punt on their own side of the field and, after review, he didn't gain the needed yard. And on a fourth-and-10 last-chance play, they Image 1 1targeted cornerback Adoree' Jackson on a play they had not practiced.

The Jackson play is an indictment of the play-calling and design -- Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews are reliable targets, Corey Davis was the fifth-pick in the draft -- and an indictment of the team's talent -- it preferred Jackson to Davis or Taywan Taylor or Eric Decker as an alternative to their two best targets.

My video report:

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Titans can talk around it, but Marcus Mariota knows he's not close to good enough right now

mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. – The knee injury Marcus Mariota suffered on an awkward slide in the first quarter didn’t cause a big reaction from the trainers and didn’t cost him a snap.

Maybe it was a significant factor in his poor performance, maybe not.

MariotaARIEither way, a quarterback who looked poised after his first two seasons to emerge as a true franchise guy has fallen well short of the mark this year, and Sunday’s 12-7 loss to the Cardinals showed us that again.

A .516 completion percentage, two interceptions and no touchdowns gave him a 39.6 passer rating, his worst of the season by almost 13 points.

“I’m pissed off,” he also said. “That’s all. We just lost.”

He also offered this telling assessment:

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Defense is polite, but it should be pissed at Titans' offense

mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. – Brian Orakpo chose not to talk to reporters after the Titans’ miserable 12-7 loss.

I saw him say that as I approached his locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium and I turned to Wesley Woodyard, a few stalls Image 1away, who then said the same.

So I turned to start to look for someone else, and thought, two big names on defense not wanting to talk after a good-defense, bad-offense game can sure look be taken as the defense being pissed.

Which it has every right to be.

But Woodyard’s wheels were spinning the same as mine, and he called me back, telling me he knew how I might spin it and choosing instead to answer.

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Mailbag: What do the Titans need to add in 2018?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If you didn't see Friday's Periscope/ Facebook Live, I present it for your enjoyment here.

MDI Construction is about to send me to Phoenix for Titans-Cardinals, But before I go, it's time for the mail...

TitansElfPK: They need a dynamic pass rusher that demands constant attention, a third cornerback, at least one guard and a backup quarterback. If they added those four things and Mike Mularkey and the offensive staff did an honest assessment of their offense and made some alterations, I think they could make a run in 2018.

PK: Steep price. Would I trade two first-rounders, one that’s not going to be high, one that’s presumably not going to be high, for the remainder of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers career?

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pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This weekly post has come to have a soundtrack in my head.

But hey, two of these categories are intentionally difficult, and I'm doing just fine in the third. So on we go with the struggle.

Games of the week (6-3-1)

You’ll have to take my word for it that I loved the Falcons +0.5 against the Saints Thursday night. I don’t get credit for that one but it did continue my recent hot streak.PickersSixString

Jets -0.5 at Broncos

Way too small of spread. Which means the Broncos probably win outright. But I am going against the way I generally pick on the bad side of a spread, because Denver is just way worse than the Jets, no matter where this game is.

Outlandishly specific call of the week (2-5)

Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch tops 100 yards at Kansas City. He’s gotten things going and the Chiefs don’t stop ground attacks.

Titans pick of the week (1-3)

After missing two games with a hamstring injury, Rishard Matthews surfs again. Marcus Mariota and the offense will benefit greatly from having Matthews and Delanie Walker on the field together. I think the Titans receiver scores a touchdown.

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Titans are NFL's top team at preventing big plays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Take away the run and make them one-dimensional.

It’s a long-standing and popular defensive philosophy. If a team can make it happen, pass rushers are free to go after the quarterback on largely predictable pass plays.

A statistical skew is not uncommon: Teams that are really good in run defense might not look good numerically in pass defense, or vice versa. Some defenses can, in effect, force more yardage into one category.RyanHou

Currently the Titans rank third in rush defense, but 25th against the pass.

Still there are some really good signs about the Titans’ pass defense as compared to the seven around the league that rank worse.

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Titans consider Kevin Dodd an emergency defensive lineman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kevin Dodd has been a very quiet outside linebacker since the Titans made him the 33rd pick out of Clemson in the 2016 NFL draft.

He's been a healthy inactive seven times this season.DoddCAR0819 1

But Sunday when the Titans got banged up on the defensive line, they were close to using Dodd as a defensive end, Dick LeBeau said.

My video report on Dodd as a defensive lineman:

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