- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Titans squeeze into playoffs

The Titans rank 27th in passing, 22nd in scoring and 21st in offense. They also beat the defending champion Colts 16-10 on Sunday to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Sure, the Titans were fortunate the Colts had nothing to play for except pride. Yes, the Colts pulled several regulars before halftime.

Still, the Titans led when Peyton Manning exited midway through the second quarter, and they rallied after veteran Kerry Collins replaced quarterback Vince Young, who left with an injured quadriceps in the third quarter.

The Rewind gives a big thumbs up to Titans coach Jeff Fisher for coaxing a 10-6 season from a team competing in the NFL’s toughest division — all four AFC South teams finished at least 8-8, and three of them made the playoffs.

The much-hyped Young threw nine touchdown passes versus 17 interceptions and the Titans outscored their foes by only four points.

The defense, however, led by tackle Albert Haynesworth and linebacker Keith Bulluck, ranks fifth in the NFL and sure could throw a scare into LaDainian Tomlinson and Co. in Sunday’s playoff game at San Diego.

Charged up

Speaking of San Diego, The Rewind’s old pal, Norv Turner, enters the playoffs on a six-game winning streak.

Turner, of course, is familiar with letdowns after winning streaks. He followed a seven-game string of victories with a 2-6 free fall that cost the Redskins a playoff berth in 1996. And he followed a five-game winning streak with a 1-4 plummet that cost him his job during the 2000 season.

So, yes, the Chargers (11-5) head into the playoffs riding the longest winning streak outside of New England, but all is not what it seems.

The Chargers beat only one team with a winning record, the Titans, during the streak, and they went to overtime to do that.

They have only one other victory over a winning team this season, a squeaker over the Colts in which Darren Sproles returned two kicks for touchdowns, Peyton Manning threw a career-worst six interceptions and Adam Vinatieri missed a chip-shot field goal late in the game that would have won it.

Turner won his playoff debut with the Redskins in 1999 — albeit over the Lions — and had the Bucs on the ropes the next week.

He would be advised to have Philip Rivers spend the afternoon handing off to L.T. The Titans sacked Rivers four times and intercepted him twice four weeks ago, but Tomlinson averaged 5.6 yards a carry against them.

Double-digit disappointment

The Browns beat the 49ers on Sunday, concluding an 8-3 finishing kick that produced a 10-6 record.

That mark was better than the record that earned the Browns a wild card berth in 2002, but they missed out on the postseason this year thanks to the Titans’ superior record against the teams’ common conference foes.

The Browns joined the 1991 49ers, the 2003 Dolphins and 2005 Chiefs as the only 10-win teams to miss the playoffs since the NFL added a sixth postseason qualifier in each conference in 1990.

Still, the season was a big success for the Browns, who won just 10 games in total the past two seasons.

Quarterback Derek Anderson threw 29 touchdown passes. Running back Jamal Lewis resuscitated his career with 1,304 rushing yards. Tight end Kellen Winslow and receiver Braylon Edwards, their No. 1 draft picks in 2004 and 2005, combined for 162 catches, 2,395 yards and 21 touchdowns.

So in a division in which last year’s champions, the Ravens, just fired their coach and the Bengals are making little progress, the future looks bright for the Browns.

Phuture in Philly?

Amid all the speculation about their future in Philadelphia, coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to a season-ending three straight victories for a .500 record.

The Eagles finished 2-7 this season against winning teams, 6-1 against everyone else. Running back Brian Westbrook had a monster year with a career-high 1,333 rushing yards and team records of 90 catches and 2,104 yards from scrimmage.

The Eagles also finished in the top 10 in the league on both offense and defense — the Patriots, Cowboys and Colts are the only other teams to manage that feat — so The Rewind sees potential for a return to the playoffs next season if the embattled Reid and McNabb return.

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