pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If you're like me, I know the final regular-season mailbag of 2017 makes you exceptionally sentimental.

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Thanks to Pickers Vodka for sponsoring this post and all my broadcasts. You really should grab a bottle for you and take another with you to the New Year's Eve party you're attending. That's what I will be doing. Drink Responsibly.

Remember this from Nov. 6 as we await Sunday afternoon's kickoff for the Jaguars-Titans rematch.

On to the mail, where we'll start out with some questions from Facebook, where you should like my page if you have not already.

Drue Jolly What is the likely attendance on Sunday given the weather and recent performance?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota doesn’t have anything to prove Sunday against the Jaguars, Mike Mularkey said.

The broad point is, the Titans believe in him as their starter now and moving forward.

But in the context of this season, Mariota, the entire roster and coaching staff absolutely has something to prove.TitanManRAMS 1

A 9-7 record and a playoff berth is a whole different deal than 8-8 and packing up your locker.

It’s not just one game, because with three consecutive losses the Titans have made it THE game.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There has been a bit of a business-as-usual feel around the Titans this week, as they head into a game that can get them into the playoffs.

That is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it’s a far cry from how some old Titans teams handled things during tense times, when pranks and silliness were a method used to ensure high-pressure stretches didn’t get too tense.

Once, a veteran who felt the team needed a jolt and a laugh boarded a scooter that belonged to the team mascot, T-Rac, and rode it through the locker room -- naked. The howling that ensued created a buzz and players had a big time making fun of him and getting caught up in the moment, one that distracted them in what proved to be a healthy way.LewanSmileSEA

There has been no hint of any such shenanigans for the 2017 Titans, who will not only be trying to get a 17th game, but playing to end a three-game losing streak.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Perhaps chief among the criticism Mike Mularkey and his coach staff have faced this year is that they are stubborn, and have not adjusted enough from things like their run-first mentality when it’s not worked.

Rare are the instances when the Titans have passed to set up the run.

TitansJaguarsHelmetsComing out of a loss in Arizona when they scored 7 points in Arizona, Terry Robiskie said the team was more likely to cut things down and really focus – perhaps running one running play six times instead of running six different running plays.

They’ve surely added other smart wrinkles along the way like the one Mularkey talked me through with Derrick Henry’s 17-yard touchdown run in Jacksonville in Week 2.

But from my vantage point, the willingness of Mularkey and Robiskie to push the envelope as needed and to stray from core offensive philosophical principles hasn’t been a big feature.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The referee announces a timeout, and the quarterback heads to the sideline.

The conversation there is short, but it offers time to reset.

And as an offense returns to the field, I think it’s reasonable to expect a higher degree of success than on a random play in the game not after a timeout. It’s like the 15-play script an offense leans on at the start of a game. There should be some advantages.MariotaHandoffIND

Mike Mularkey doesn’t necessarily agree.

“It just gives you a chance to rethink things,” he said. “Is there something better? I never factored in anything like (the idea that production should be better after a timeout). Just you get more time to discuss the next play.”

In Sunday’s loss to the Rams, the Titans didn’t impress coming out of timeouts.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 2004 Buffalo Bills faced a win-and-in game in their regular-season finale. They faced Pittsburgh in Buffalo, and the 14-1 Steelers had already sealed up their No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Ben Roethlisberger and Jerome Bettis didn’t play for the visitors.

An 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown by James Harrison, in the 17th game of his career, helped propel the Steelers to an unneeded 29-24 victory.


That sent first-year Bills coach Mike Mularkey into the offseason lamenting key moments in the season

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Nov. 26, Derrick Henry looked way better than DeMarco Murray in the Titans’ second win over Indianapolis.

Henry took 13 carries for 79 yards, while Murray had 12 for nine.

On Nov. 30, Mike Mularkey spoke well of both running backs and declared, “I think we have two starters.”HenryStiffArmCIN

On Dec. 3 against Houston, Murray played only eight more snaps than Henry.

But since then, the Titans have shrunk Henry’s role way down.

During the Titans’ three-game losing streak, Murray has been on the field for 143 snaps, while Henry has played just 51.

It's not as if Murray’s been rolling during those three games. He averaged 3.2 yards a carry on his chances, while Henry was at 2.8.

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DavisRamsNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans can lose Sunday to Jacksonville, and if two other games fall correctly they can back into the playoffs riding a four-game losing streak.

They could then go to Jacksonville or Kansas City and lose a first-round playoff game.

And after coming to terms with that result, they could actually claim success.

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Imagine, if you will, a scenario where the Titans lose their final fives games, managing along the way to get above the line that some of us said would define their season as a success or failure -- but finishing with an overall record of 8-9.

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