Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. The ppackers won the game 20-3. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebe
Phelan M. Ebenhack
December 22, 2014

You can win for losing in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans are proving it.

Thanks to a nine-game slide, the Titans (2-13) are in line for the top overall pick in next spring's draft. They hold the edge, according to the latest NFL calculations, on equally inept Tampa Bay because of strength - uh, make that weakness - of schedule.

''Nobody is giving up,'' said third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, now the starter after injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker.

''You can see how hard we fight until the very end and that locker room expects to win next week. That's the way we've been all year and we just have not been able to put it all together yet.''

Not even close.

Under first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans have compiled their awful record against opponents with a 108-115-1 mark. That gives their schedule a .484 rating, barely easier than Tampa Bay's .489 under its first-year coach, Lovie Smith.

Unless they both win home games Sunday - the Titans against AFC South winner Indianapolis, the Bucs vs. New Orleans - one of them will own the top selection.

But which one remains uncertain, because every game must be played across the league to fully determine strength (weakness) of schedule.

That means results in contests not involving the Titans or Bucs could affect who winds up No. 1. Or No. 32, that is.

Since the NFL went to all divisional matchups on the final weekend of the schedule, in theory the impact of those games not involving the bottom teams would be minimized.

This season, the AFC South, where the Titans are the tail-enders, played the entire NFC East and AFC North. That means interconference matchups with the surprisingly strong Cowboys and surprisingly weak Giants, and four games against teams over or close to .500 from the AFC North.

Tampa Bay's NFC South faced off with the AFC North, too, but took on the NFC North.

Should both Tennessee and Tampa Bay win Sunday, Jacksonville, Oakland and the New York Jets, all 3-12, are next in line.

Clearly, though, the odds favor the Titans and Bucs as leadoff hitters at the draft.


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