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Playoffs on the line


This isn't just another AFC South game for Deon Grant. This is the division game that most interests Grant, a player with Tennessee roots and the subject of postgame hostilities in this game a year ago.

It was following the Jaguars' 31-28 win over the Titans in Nashville last season when Grant and former University of Tennessee teammate Albert Haynesworth got into a heated exchange.

"That's something that's always going to be going back and forth. They said they couldn't wait until they got back here," Grant said.

Haynesworth and a couple of Titans teammates talked about hoping last year's regular season finale would require the Jaguars to win to make the playoffs because the Titans wanted to beat the Jaguars and keep them out of the playoffs. As it turned out, the Jaguars had already clinched a playoff berth and then went on to hand the Titans an embarrassing 40-13 defeat that brought a merciful conclusion to their season.

Now the Titans are back, in more ways than one. At 6-7, they're still in playoff contention. More importantly, they have laid the foundation for what appears to be a bright future, and when the Jaguars and Titans clash this Sunday at LP Field, the game might be a preview of next year's AFC South title race.

"I respect what they're doing and how they're doing it," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of the Titans. "The quarterback is extending plays. You can just see the confidence he has. He's moving the chains. He's making plays in the pass game. He makes plays with his feet."

Mostly, quarterback Vince Young is making big plays with his feet. Young's 458 yards rushing is second only to Michael Vick's 934 among NFL quarterbacks. Young's 65.7 passer rating, however, is next to last in the league. Clearly, the Jaguars defense's greatest challenge is defending against Young's scrambles.

"He's not going to make us look stupid," Grant said. "The key thing is to swarm him and, when we tackle him, make sure we wrap up and move our feet.

"I like him a lot. As far as scared of him, no. I don't even know what that is," Grant added.

Del Rio's challenge to his team is to approach each game with a playoff-like focus. At 8-5, the Jaguars could put themselves on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. A loss, however, could leave the Jaguars having to win each of their final two games to make the playoffs. That's how big this game is.

"You see examples every year of teams that stumble coming out of the gate, then come on strong. I don't think you can read the first chapter and know what the book is about. Our thing is to play our best football at the end and not worry about whether somebody thought we were going to be good in the preseason. Who cares?" Del Rio said.

The Titans certainly stumbled coming out of the gate. They were 0-5 before they won a game and they were 2-7 when they began their current four-game winning streak. In the second game of that four-game streak, the Titans trailed the Giants, 21-0, in the fourth quarter.

If Haynesworth and mates are still bent on revenge, this would seem to be their opportunity to achieve it.

"We're going to go down and compete. That's the mode we're in," Del Rio said.

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