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Munchak: Titans need to make push in next 6 games

Munchak: Titans need to make push in next 6 games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Mike Munchak's pitch to the Titans is that they can be the team making a late run into the playoffs in their final six games.

Munchak challenged his team Monday to have at least made a run by the time the regular season ends.

``It seems to happen every year in the league,'' Munchak said. ``This is our opportunity, our chance to be that team. That's how they have to believe it, that's how they have to work. ... It's up to you, if you want to have that kind of season and that kind of finish, or do you want to have the other kind, which I don't think any of us want.''

The Titans (4-6) returned to work Monday morning after a six-day break with meetings and film study. They broke down their own mistakes and strengths through the first 10 games. Munchak then put them through a practice touching on everything from scoring inside the 20, 2-minute offense and the run game.

He said they saw what they're capable of Nov. 11 when they routed Miami 37-3 in a complete game. The defense forced four turnovers. The special teams showed up. And Chris Johnson ran for 126 yards while Jake Locker threw for two touchdowns in his return from a shoulder injury.

As far as the AFC playoff race goes, the Titans are one of five teams bunched at 4-6 behind Cincinnati (5-5). Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are both 6-4. So, there's a lot be decided, and Munchak is going to feed off that.

``We have to win a lot of football games, but if we do, then we're right in the middle of this thing. But we have to win,'' Munchak said. ``What happens around us, you need the right teams to lose, obviously, along the trail.''

Tennessee has put together only one winning streak this season when it beat Pittsburgh and won at Buffalo. They lost in overtime to Indianapolis when they had a chance at a third straight.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner said the Titans feel confident they can respond.

``We're in a six-game playoff before the playoffs where we can't really afford to lose any of these games,'' he said. ``If we can take care of our business and do what we're capable of doing, we can easily win all six of these games.

``We just can't look ahead.''

The final six games won't be easy even though they visit Jacksonville (1-9) on Sunday for the first of two games with the Jaguars down the stretch. The other four feature Houston (9-1), the Jets (4-6) and trips to Indianapolis and Green Bay (7-3).

The Titans first need to prove they can win a game inside the AFC South. The Jaguars contest starts a three-game stretch inside the division for Tennessee, and the Titans already have losses to Houston and the Colts this season. Jacksonville has won two of the last three in this series, and the Jaguars just missed a big win in Houston before falling 43-37 in overtime on Sunday.

``People get so caught up in records,'' Munchak said. ``There you have 1-8 versus 8-1, and the 1-8 team should have won probably, had many chances to win that game. We understand what that's all about, and it's going to be a great game for us and a tough game for us to win in Jacksonville.''

Monday's film session brought everyone together after the bye. The coaches spent the time without players self-scouting themselves, and they had plenty of bad football to study with Tennessee giving up an average 31.1 points per game with too many turnovers.

Looking back, linebacker Colin McCarthy believes the team is in the right frame of mind.

``It's kind of late now to focus on the bad things,'' he said. ``Focus on the good things we've done, build on that and put together a game plan so we can attack Jacksonville and be efficient.''

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.

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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.

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