Munchak gives his Titans rest of week off for bye


Munchak gives his Titans rest of week off for bye

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Mike Munchak wants the Titans to rest up as much as possible now that they're finally getting a break.

Munchak put his team through a light workout Monday, then gave them the rest of the week off. The Titans aren't due back at work until next Monday when Munchak plans to put them through a practice in preparation for a visit to Jacksonville (1-8).

This is the latest bye for this franchise since the open week went into effect in 1990, and Munchak said he prefers the bye at the midpoint of the season.

Still, the Titans (4-6) can rest easy.

A week after being put on notice by the owner, they responded with their biggest win of the season - beating Miami 37-3.

``It's just something we need, mentally and physically because of what we've been through,'' Munchak said. ``I'm glad we won it because we needed it. It will be a lot easier to mentally be more positive when we do come back. I think we will be fine.''

The Titans are banged-up with 11 players listed on last week's injury report, not counting right guard Leroy Harris, who became the 11th man on injured reserve this season Nov. 7. Receiver Kenny Britt hasn't missed a practice, though coaches limit his playing time as he recovers from three knee surgeries over the past year.

Linebacker Colin McCarthy has been limited by a right ankle he sprained in the opener, and he had his first interception this season in the win over Miami. He plans to spend this week resting and relaxing hoping the time off his ankle helps him when they return in a week.

``Week to week, it's up and down as far as how it feels so hopefully this week we'll see what happens,'' McCarthy said.

The Titans didn't stick around after finishing up a mandatory meeting in the afternoon.

``It's a long season,'' linebacker Akeem Ayers said. ``We been going 10-plus weeks of just football, a lot of meetings and everything. Just to get a little time off and come back refreshed the last six weeks will be good for us.''

Munchak made clear to his Titans before they left that they still have hope when they return. Aside from the AFC's division leaders, only two teams have more than four wins in the competition for the two wild card slots. The Titans already have a win over Pittsburgh and will visit Indianapolis (6-3) on Dec. 9.

``We know we have to win three, four games in a row to kind of get it where we need to get it,'' Munchak said. ``That's not going to be easy to do. Hopefully, we use it to a positive.''

The way Tennessee played in Miami is what Munchak and his assistants expected this season. The defense forced four turnovers after getting nine the previous nine games combined. They did not give up a touchdown for the first time since Nov. 13, 2011, which also is the last time the Titans won a game by more than six points.

Offensively, Jake Locker shook off some of the rust in his first game since Sept. 30. He got better as the game went on with his left, non-throwing, shoulder surviving a hard hit. He also showed off his ability to scramble, and Munchak said Locker played fearlessly, which is what they hoped they'd see.

``He's exciting to watch, and I think it is contagious when you have a young guy like that running around making plays,'' Munchak said.

Chris Johnson ran for 126 yards for his 24th career game with 125 yards or more. Only Eric Dickerson has more games (27) in his first five seasons. A team that ranked last in the NFL in rushing in September has moved up to 17th, and Johnson is second in the AFC with 862 yards rushing on 170 carries, trailing only Arian Foster of Houston (872 on 221 rushes).

``He knows he's going to get 15 to 20 to 25 runs now, so I think his mindset is a lot different,'' Munchak said of Johnson. ``He's just running more relaxed and confidently.''

Munchak gave his Titans this week's schedule a couple weeks ago so they could plan ahead. McCarthy said they understand they have six games remaining when they return.

``A lot of excitement throughout the team, excited to get back and make a run these last six games,'' McCarthy said.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.