(Mandatory Photo Credit: Kam Nedd / Jaguars.com)
Written By: Joseph Yun
After seemingly a deliberate attempt at “maximizing its chances” this weekend last Thursday night, the mother of all showdowns is here. Tennessee travels to Jacksonville with the AFC South and the fourth seed in the AFC on the line. The Jaguars are riding high after whipping the Titans in their previous encounter in an only close on the scoreboard 36-22 duel back in Week 14. The Nashville-based organization is on an epochal seven-game losing slide. Can the Titans seemingly break the hex and win the division after witnessing their seemingly insurmountable lead collapse? Will the AFC’s hottest team snatch the division away from the reigning king and make a Cinderella run?
Jaguars’ key numbers + info
Note: All statistics courtesy of pro-football-reference.com
HC: Doug Pederson (45-46-1 career)
OC: Press Taylor
DC: Mike Caldwell
2022 Record: 8-8 (3-2 AFC South)
PPG Against: 20.9
Rush yards: 2,097
Rush yards allowed: 1,804
Avg. per rush attempt: 4.8
Avg per attempt allowed: 4.2
Pass completion rate: 66%
Pass completion allowed: 64%
Leading Rusher: Travis Etienne (213 attempts for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns;33 receptions for 299 yards)
Leading Receiver: Christian Kirk (78 receptions for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns)
Leading Tackler: Foyesade Oluokun (171 tackles; four passes defended, 11 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one sack, two forced fumbles)
Key Additions: LB Travon Walker (rookie), LB Foyesade Oluokun, DL Folorunso Fatukasi, LB Devin Lloyd (rookie), CB Darious Williams, CB Montaric Brown (rookie), LB Arden Key, WR Christian Kirk, WR Zay Jones, TE Evan Engram, OL Brandon Scherff, C Luke Fortner (rookie), RB JaMychal Hasty, WR Calvin Ridley (trade)
Key Losses: C Brandon Linder (retired), RB James Robinson (trade), LB Chad Muma (R / injured), S Andre Cisco (injured), DT Malcolm Brown, RB Ryquell Armstead (retired), WR Laviska Shenault (trade), CB Shaquill Griffin (IR), LB K’Lavon Chaisson (IR), OL Ben Bartch (IR), DE Dawuane Smoot (IR), RB Darrell Henderson, OL John Miller, OL Cam Robinson (IR)
Tennessee leads the all-time series by a margin of 34-22. Since the 2018 season when Mike Vrabel was named head coach, the Titans own a 7-2 record. In those seven victories, the average margin has been ten points, which includes last season’s shutout. In that time, Tennessee has scored 201 points to Jacksonville’s 144. Vrabel is 9-2 when having eight days or more to rest and prepare.
Keys to a Titans Victory
Spring (board) Cleaning
- If embattled offensive coordinator Todd Downing has any imagination left, it’s high time he unloads everything in the Titans’ arsenal. He and the team were given a reprieve last week and almost won the Dallas game out of spite. Trick plays to defensive linemen, fake punts, and whatever else is necessary to secure the division is the name of this game. The offensive line has been beyond abysmal this season thanks to ineffectiveness and injury. Can the Titans compensate for that by using a quick pass game with a just-got-here Josh Dobbs? Will this Saturday be the swan song for Downing in yet another lost offensive season?
Contain the pass
- While the Titans have been horrific in terms of pass defense, they have shown flickers on occasion, baiting Dak Prescott into ill-timed turnovers to keep that game competitive. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the secondary all season. The defensive front has been relatively stout when healthy (a rarity) but the secondary couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. In comes Trevor Lawrence on a heater after Dak Prescott’s somewhat confusing performance. Tennessee won’t stop him completely so they just need to keep him in check for long enough until the much-maligned offense can get it together. The good news is that every relevant defender is available to play save for those previously on IR.
- Josh Dobbs looked surprisingly effective while leading the offense on short notice last week. Tennessee will be heavily reliant on Derrick Henry per usual to carry the load. It might behoove them to use him as much as possible as the offense in its current form probably can’t go score for score with the Jaguars. Run the ball, hope for some bounces, and get out with a win.
Keys to a Jaguars Victory
- The much-ballyhooed and precocious passer grew up this season under new management. Keep on keeping on as the saying goes. He’s an emerging point guard for a suddenly powerful offensive attack that features Christian Kirk, revitalized Evan Engram, and Zay Jones. Lawrence doesn’t necessarily need this win to boost his ascending stock but it wouldn’t hurt if he went on a playoff run. Jacksonville is much more dangerous with him pushing all the buttons against a deeply wounded Tennessee secondary.
Establish. The. Run
- Travis Etienne has been very effective this season generating big plays but he faces a stingy Titans’ run defense that ranks in the top half of the league. While he likely won’t be required to lead the charge due to Tennessee’s secondary being less than ideal, it would be nice to have some balance. The former first-round selection is an explosive play waiting to happen with his outstanding athleticism. Tennessee will be hard-pressed to contain all the Jaguars’ offensive firepower.
Dethrone the King
- Literally and figuratively. King Henry rested last week to torment his old friends in Jacksonville as he is historically wont to do. However, he’s had numerous game-changing fumbles of late. Perhaps the Jaguars just need to soak up the pressure and attack quickly on the counter in an effort that would make the “gegenpressing” fútbol teams of Red Bull and Jurgen Klopp fame proud. A win would mean the Jaguars would end the brief hegemonic dominion that Tennessee ruled for three seasons. Can they usurp the throne as the presumptive favorites?
Injury Report - Titans @ Jaguars
(information courtesy of AccuWeather.com)
What are the Odds?
(note: all odds courtesy of vegasinsider.com)
BetMGM has the Jaguars being 6.5-point favorites at -110, the money line at -275 for Jacksonville, and the Titans at +225. over/under is set at 40.
Caesar’s has the Jaguars being 6.5-point favorites at -110, the money line at -285 for Jacksonville, and the Titans at +228. The over/under is set at 40.
WynnBet has the Jaguars being 6.5-point favorites at -110, the money line at -270 for Jacksonville, and the Titans at +220. The over/under is set at 40.
FanDuel has the Titans being 6.5-point favorites at -110, the money line being -295 for Jacksonville, and the Titans being +240. over/under is set at 39.5