Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) intercepts a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss (18) and returns it for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs off the field following an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan (26) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders are moving in opposite directions heading into a stretch run.
The Titans (7-5) have won five of six games since switching to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, turning a mediocre season into a promising one headed into Sunday's game against the struggling Oakland Raiders (6-6), who are one game behind Tennessee in the race for the final wild-card spot.
''I think guys kind of know what's at stake, know we need to win as many games as we possibly can to put ourselves in position to win the division and make this playoff run,'' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ''So I think guys are going to be locked in.''
The Raiders are trying to get back to that form after back-to-back lopsided losses to the Jets and Kansas City, marking the first time since 1961 the team lost consecutive games by at least 30 points.
Despite that, Oakland is only one game behind Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the race for the final wild-card spot and still has hope of making the final scheduled season in Oakland a successful one.
''We feel like we've played pretty good football all year,'' coach Jon Gruden said. 'We've had some ups and downs obviously, especially the last couple weeks. You know, we're 6-6. That's nothing to really brag about, but we're excited about progress.''
The Titans still have their sights set higher than the wild-card race. Tennessee trails Houston by one game in the AFC South but plays two of the final three games against the Texans, putting the division title in the Titans control.
''If you look ahead, at the end of the day if we lose this game now what's ahead doesn't really matter,'' four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. ''So we want to make sure to we take care of this game right now, keep ourselves in a good position.
Both teams rely heavily on the running game led by a pair of backs who played college ball at Alabama. Tennessee's Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 1,725 yards rushing over his past 16 games. He has 11 TD runs this season and leads all running backs with 31 runs of at least 10 yards. His counterpart in Oakland and successor at Alabama, Josh Jacobs, has been almost as effective his rookie season, ranking fourth in the NFL with 1,061 yards rushing so far.
''He's been doing that all these years I've been playing with him at 'Bama,'' said Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans, a teammate of Jacobs' at Alabama in 2016-17. ''It's going to be like another reunion and have a guy I been practicing against for three years and being able to now play against him is going to be definitely fun.''
The Raiders' once efficient offense has stalled of late. Starting with a victory in Indianapolis in Week 4 and continuing through a home win against the Chargers in Week 10, the Raiders led the NFL in yards per play (6.34) and ranked sixth in points per drive (2.35). Over the past three weeks, the Raiders rank 18th in the league in yards per play (5.14) and last in points per drive (0.85).
''We've had a rough two weeks,'' quarterback Derek Carr said. ''I've had a rough two weeks. It's time to get back on track.''
The Titans started the season holding their first seven opponents to 20 points or less. Now they've gotten back on track the past two weeks, making nine games this season that Tennessee has held a team to 20 points or below. The Titans rank seventh in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 19.5 points a game.
After back-to-back road games in cold weather, the Raiders will be happy to come home for the final scheduled homestand at the Coliseum. The Raiders previously endured a seven-week stretch away from Oakland and will finish the season with road games against the Chargers and Broncos following next week's home finale against Jacksonville. The Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas next season.
''We do like playing at home like everybody else,'' Gruden said. ''We've been on the road more than anybody in the history of the world now. You know 45,000 miles of travel is a joke, and it's taken a toll on our team. I believe that. But it's good to be home, sleep in your own bed, play a home game, especially with the kind of fans that we have.''
Gruden did exaggerate slightly as the Raiders are traveling about 32,000 miles this season, most in the NFL.
The Titans have been leaning more and more on Henry since Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. Even though the Titans aren't asking Tannehill to throw much, he's been very effective. Tannehill is second in the NFL with a 113.9 passer rating, second to Drew Brees completing 72.7 percent of his passes, and he's leading the NFL averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt.
Since Tannehill moved into the lineup, the Titans are scoring 29.7 points a game, second in the NFL behind only the Ravens (37) in that span.
''For him to come off the bench, that's a real hard thing to do - and earn the trust and respect of his whole team,'' Gruden said. ''He's been money at crunch time.''
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.
The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Matthew Judon is a candidate to receive the team's franchise tag and could also be traded, according to league sources. The Ravens would like to bring Judon back in 2020, but they are also likely to listen to trade offers if another team shows interest. The Niners dealt a second-round pick to the Chiefs last year for defensive end Dee Ford, who then signed a five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million last March. The Chiefs also traded first- and third-round picks to the Seahawks last April for defensive end Frank Clark, who then signed a five-year, $105.5 million deal. Judon has emerged as a high-end pass rusher with at least seven sacks in each of the last three years. The 27-year-old had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2019 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams ended up with a team-high six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper finished with three grabs for 24 yards and a touchdown on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed 13-of-22 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas hauled in five receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown with a team-high eight targets at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had a solo tackle, a sack and a quarterback hit in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26, winning the Defensive Most Valuable Player award.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson completed 16-of-23 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, winning Offensive Most Valuable Player. He also ran twice for six yards in the 38-33 win.
Houston Texans impending free-agent TE Darren Fells is a player the Texans will try to re-sign this offseason, but he probably will receive interest from multiple teams in free agency.
Houston Texans impending free-agent QB AJ McCarron is a candidate to be re-signed this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop.
New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who is six weeks removed from groin/abdominal surgery, said he is jogging "a little bit" and is on track to take part in "spring football." Mosley has also started a vegan diet after playing in just two games last season because of his injury in his first year in New York. The 27-year-old should be ready for a full training camp heading into the 2020 season, and he should give Gang Green a steadying presence in the middle of the field next season. Mosley recorded 100-plus tackles in four of his five seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Jets in free agency last offseason.
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who did not play at all in 2019, plans to play in 2020 after intentionally taking the season off to rest his body and mind. Berry was cut by the Chiefs in 2018 and has only played in three games since 2016 due to injuries and a bout with cancer. The former first-round pick in 2010 has 14 career interceptions and five touchdowns and could provide a team with a veteran presence in the secondary in 2020. However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on the veteran moving forward. Berry is unlikely to be an asset in IDP leagues if he gets picked up by a team.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will become a free agent in March, said he is still waiting to decide if he will play a 20th season in the NFL. "Then, I'll kind of lay low for a little bit, get away and then assess. I kind of have a process in mind. And I'll give it a month or so," Brees said. If the 41-year-old does decide to return, it'll be for the Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis also said that the team would welcome him back if he decides to keep playing. Brees' arm strength is starting to deteriorate, but he still put up great numbers when he came back from a fractured thumb last season, and he should remain in play as a QB1 if he returns for the 2020 season.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hernia) underwent sports hernia surgery recently to fix a lingering groin injury that he suffered during the season, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. The 25-year-old aggravated the injury in the Divisional loss to the Chiefs. Fuller missed five games with a chronic hamstring injury in 2019, and the Texans were 8-3 with him and 2-3 without him. He has 94 catches for 1,452 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 22 regular season games with quarterback Deshaun Watson, yet Fuller continues to struggle to stay on the field with regularity. Fuller is an excellent deep threat but is a frustrating player to own as a boom-or-bust WR3. He should be fully recovered in time for training camp this summer.