NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Tennessee Titans want to finish their season on a seven-game win streak.

But they need lots of help to win a spot in the playoffs.

Vying to be the first NFL team to make the playoffs after an 0-5 start, the Titans promise no scoreboard-watching today. Their only focus? The New England Patriots.

“That would be wonderful if we can ride it out that way and guarantee it’s going to happen like that. It’d be great, but we don’t know,” Titans linebacker David Thornton said.

“The only way it could possibly happen is first and foremost if we do our job and go in and win against the Patriots. We can’t control a lot of things. What we can control is what we do on Sunday, and that’s trying to get a win at home.”

If the Titans (8-7) beat the Patriots (11-4), one thing is certain: Tennessee will become the first NFL team to start 0-5 and finish with a winning record. The 1962 Buffalo Bills in the old AFL lost their first five and finished 7-6-1.

But to make the playoffs, the Titans must hope Cincinnati loses or ties, and Kansas City beats Jacksonville. Then comes the final piece – waiting to see if San Francisco upsets Denver.

“Quite frankly, I’m not going to worry about it,” Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. “I’m just going to go out and play.”

New England coach Bill Belichick knows a little about streaking himself with his Patriots’ NFL-record 18 straight wins. He has been impressed with Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher and the Titans’ turnaround.

“He has done a great job bringing that team back, and they’re obviously playing with a lot of confidence,” Belichick said.

The Patriots clinched their fourth straight AFC East title and fifth in six years with a 24-21 victory at Jacksonville last week. They could move up from the No. 4 seed in the AFC with a win and an Indianapolis loss to Miami.

But they will host a wild-card game next weekend. In a similar situation last season, Belichick pulled Tom Brady and some starters after a few series in a 28-26 loss to Miami. Belichick promises the priority now is preparing for the Titans.

“We’re going to approach this game just like we do all the rest of them,” Belichick said.

His Patriots want to hit the playoffs on a winning note, and linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said they want to get better.

“We really focus on just winning this game and not necessarily how good we feel going into the playoffs or how bad we feel,” Colvin said. “I think the big thing is to take care of your job, and if you take care of your job, the percentages say you’ll be on top.”

That’s what the Titans want.

Fisher and his staff have been trying to prepare for anything Belichick might throw at them. Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, who predicted they would win out after rallying from 21-0 to beat the New York Giants, hopes to see Brady and Corey Dillon instead of backups Matt Cassel and rookie Laurence Maroney.

“So we can kind of gauge where we’re going for next year, as well. It’s one of the last tests for this team to play one of the best teams over the past six, seven, eight years in the New England Patriots. It’s a great challenge for this team,” Bulluck said.

The Titans have been resilient in this streak, scoring seven TDs on defense or special teams.

They started with the Giants comeback, followed by a 60-yard winning field goal against Indianapolis; Vince Young’s 39-yard touchdown dash in overtime in Houston; three defensive TDs to beat Jacksonville; and their fourth comeback victory with a 30-29 win at Buffalo.

The key has been an offense averaging 138.6 yards rushing and topping 200 in three of the past four wins. The Patriots are holding opponents to 91.5 yards rushing and are on pace for a franchise-record in points allowed, averaging 14.27 points per game.

Young already has run for 523 yards with six TDs, and the Patriots want to keep him from taking off.

“He’s in some tough situations (and) he comes out of them …,” New England defensive end Ty Warren said. “He’s given that team a sense of confidence that they can win a game now, and I think you see that with the results these past eight weeks.”

The Titans expect a playoff-type atmosphere Sunday for their first game with the Patriots since a 17-14 divisional loss in New England on Jan. 10, 2004. Steve McNair still was Tennessee’s quarterback at the end of the glory days – until this stunning streak revived such memories.

Veteran center Kevin Mawae thinks the Titans already have made history with their revival from the 0-5 start, but a playoff berth would be nice.

“You get a taste for winning, and guys want more of it. I think we’ve set the tone for the rest of this year and next year,” he said.

AP-ES-12-30-06 1324EST


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