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Marcus Mariota was a limited participant in practice Wednesday as the Titans quarterback continues his rehab to build the strength back in his hand. “They way they explained it to me A.J. Brown Tennessee Titans Jersey , it鈥檚 like when you strum a guitar string,鈥?Mariota said, via Paul Kuharsky of paulkuharsky.com. 鈥淲hen that string settles down, that鈥檚 kind of similar to how my nerve is. My nerve has kind of been strummed and it鈥檚 going to take it鈥檚 time to settle down.鈥淚t鈥檚 really the whole hand, but the numbness and the tingliness is a couple fingers, the weakness is kind of the whole hand and that鈥檚 what I鈥檝e been working on.鈥滿ariota injured his right elbow on a hit by Miami defensive lineman William Hayes in the season opener. Mariota was active against the Texans on Sunday but did not see the field as backup Blaine Gabbert played.Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Mariota’s elbow is showing improvement. But the nerve issue continues to affect Mariota’s grip.鈥淚 wake up, the first thing I do is kind of mess around with my hand,鈥?Mariota said, clenching and unclenching his hands. 鈥淗onestly, I think it鈥檚 close.鈥淚鈥檓 sure they are watching, they are paying attention to see how [the ball] is coming out. Ultimately we鈥檒l all kind of come together to make a decision.鈥滿ariota wore a glove Sunday to help his grip, though he made limited throws in pregame warmups. He wore a modified glove minus two fingers at practice Wednesday, according to Kuharsky.鈥淛ust trying to find whatever works,鈥?Mariota said. 鈥淭rying to figure out hat鈥檚 going to help me get out there and feel comfortable.鈥 Forget Carrie Underwood. Well, don't forget her, she's terrific.But the NFL's theme song these days belongs to Maren Morris, Zedd and Grey. You know, "Meet Me In The Middle."That's where a bevy of NFL teams sat through Week 14 鈥?all with shots, both reasonable and long, at making the playoffs.Take a deep breath and consider:鈥擲eattle and Dallas at 8-5.鈥擯ittsburgh at 7-5-1.鈥擨ndianapolis Will Compton Jersey , Baltimore, Tennessee and Miami at 7-6.鈥擬innesota at 6-6-1.鈥擯hiladelphia, Carolina, Denver and Washington at 6-7.鈥擥reen Bay and Cleveland at 5-7-1.And, yes, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Cincinnati and the New York Giants at 5-8.All are alive for the postseason.Even Atlanta, at 4-9, if you can imagine, isn't eliminated.Just what the league loves heading toward Christmas: charity for nearly all.So let first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel play the Grinch, trying to ignore any playoff chatter as his team heads to the Meadowlands to face the Giants."We haven't talked much. We try to eliminate all the scenarios," he says. "The only scenario that we try to focus on is our preparation right now as we head into a road game against the Giants."You could talk about scenarios all day. There's scenarios where the Dolphins give up two punt blocks and score on a 70-yard hook-and-ladder; a scenario where a player jumps offside on a third-and-1 in a four-minute situation; a situation where a team executes a 50-yard hook-and-ladder and then the kicker slips. Those are all the scenarios that are crazy that happen in this league every week, so the one we're going to try to focus on is our preparation versus the Giants."Fair enough, because all of the playoff-qualifying scenarios for this week are enough to spark a migraine.The questions that should be raised are:鈥擨s all of this competitive balance or simply mediocrity? Oasis or swamp?鈥擨s it good for the NFL that such spiraling messes as the Falcons and Bengals remain in the running?鈥擠o people really want to see a .500 (or worse) team playing in January, perhaps against a 14-2 opponent?LEVEL OF PERFORMANCENearly all the teams in the middle of the standings belong there. It's fair to point out that the Redskins, Bengals and Falcons have been severely damaged by injuries 鈥?hey, Cincinnati was once 4-1 and Washington held the top spot in the NFC East until its current four-game slide.Still, there's a flawed bunch of "contenders" for the playoffs. They are profiting because they are keeping company with equally blemished clubs.All of them have had impressive stretches and pretty much unwatchable ones, though Seattle and Dallas probably don't deserve to be lumped with the stragglers because they seem to be legitimate threats to do something in January.What's missing with the others is the consistency that the top teams possess. Look at the Colts Kenny Vaccaro Jersey , who went from 1-1 to 1-5, then won five in a row, only to get blanked at lowly Jacksonville before going to Houston, the league's hottest team, and winning.FORGET THEMDo fans in Atlanta and Cincinnati and Washington envision any sort of turnaround in the final three games that would lift those teams into the postseason? Do those clubs' front offices?They shouldn't, even as the NFL boasts that 26 teams still have a shot at the Super Bowl.One likely good thing about such deficient teams being in the running in mid-December is that it should cool talk of expanding the playoff field 鈥?something that virtually would guarantee impostors getting in.MISMATCHESOnce in a while, a team scrapes into the postseason and catches fire. Wild-carders have won the Super Bowl often enough to keep that dream alive once you get in.But should, say, a 7-8-1 Packers or 8-8 Lions sneak in, does that make for must-watch TV in the playoffs? Is a game with 8-8 Miami at 12-4 Houston enticing?SEEDINGSWhat is nice about the chase in December is the intrigue of seedings. The general feeling in the AFC is that avoiding a trip to Foxborough in January is necessary. So, the other division winners not only want and likely need to win their games, they're hoping the Patriots, currently seeded second, don't win out. Kansas City tops the conference right now, but barely.The NFC is a two-team race for the top spot between the Saints and Rams, who met in a high-scoring affair won by host New Orleans in early November. Both are 11-2, making their final three weeks critical in that race.And then they have the prospect of sitting out wild-card weekend while a team or two emerging from the quagmire stokes up its fan base before probably getting routed.