Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-4 SU, 2-5 ATS)
NFL Week 8
Date/Time: Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: NFL Network
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: JAC +3.5/TEN -3.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
On Thursday Night Football, the Jacksonville Jaguars come to Nissan Stadium to face the Tennessee Titans in an AFC South divisional matchup from Nashville. Both teams are trying to excavate themselves from long runs of futility. And while each team is still experiencing pronounced growing pains, it appears the Titans are on the right track, winning 2 in a row before falling to the Colts narrowly last Sunday. Jacksonville is still working things out and after a nice road win over the Bears, they fell very flat in a home loss to the Raiders on Sunday, 33-16.
The Titans are trying to build up and after winning five games combined in their last two seasons, all signs show a team on the rise. They should surpass their win total of the last two years this season alone, which would represent a nice step forward for this long-maligned franchise. In his second season, Marcus Mariota is showing growing maturity and ability at this level. The addition of DeMarco Murray has made the offense move better, as they finally have a viable ground-game. Murray is third in the league in rushing with 633 yards, while adding 27 catches. With Mariota’s legs and Derrick Henry providing relief, this offense can move the ball.
Mariota has 6 picks and can still be inconsistent against the right defenses, but he has 12 TD throws, making good use of a growing aerial crew. TE Delanie Walker continues to be a threat, with 24 catches and 3 TDs. Rookie Tajae Sharpe (questionable) and Rishard Matthews also offer viable aerial targets. Granted, the passing game lags far behind the league’s third-ranked run-offense, but again, nothing is perfect for a team that is trying to rise from the depths. All told, the promise being shown as we approach the midway point of the season is a source of optimism.
The Tennessee defense has also made some strides, keeping all opponents within a range of 15 and 27 points this season. They’ve registered a nice pass-rush at times this season, with Brian Orakpo, Jurrell Casey, and Derrick Morgan combining for 14.5 sacks. They’ve been robust up-front against the run and when you run as well as the Titans do, that equation could lead to Tennessee controlling parts of some games, as well as the clock.
Though they only have one less win, things appear less-rosy for the Jaguars, a team struggling to put things together. On paper, they have an aerial attack that inspires confidence—until you see them in action. It’s a part of the team that needs to be there, but often isn’t. Blake Bortles can shine some weeks and look utterly impotent in others. Good luck trying to figure which version you will get. Those who thought Bortles could get business done against the sometimes-shaky Raiders “D” were disappointed as the Jags struggled last Sunday on offense.
Bortles has a good arm, with a stocked receiver package with a lot of talent. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, TE Julius Thomas (questionable), Marqise Lee, and others are nice targets, but consistently fail to live up to their potential. The performance of RB TJ Yeldon has been off-the-mark this season, with a line that doesn’t always do the best job blocking and keeping Bortles free of distress. They’re a dangerous group, but a totally inconsistent one where you don’t really know what you’re getting week to week.
The Jacksonville defense has some of the same problems. On paper, it’s a unit that should excel. And while they’ve been resilient against the pass at times (6th in the league) they can be exploited on the ground and they give up a lot of scoring, ranked 26th in the NFL, giving up almost 27 points per game. It’s just not a terribly-impactful defense, with just 3 picks and two recovered fumbles on the season with a limited pass-rush.
The Jaguars were supposed to be a lot better this season, with pieces across all phases of the team supposed to improve and come around, with some key acquisitions paying off. And what we see heading into week 8 is a Jacksonville team that looks a lot like the ramshackle bunch we’ve seen in recent seasons. Time and again, we’ve made solid and coherent cases for why the Jaguars should do well, only to see them fall flat. It’s hard to keep going to the well.
Even so, in a divisional game against another team that is still working things out, Jacksonville should be in this game. Teams on the rise like the Titans don’t always deliver in spots like this. It could be a tight game with the result coming down to the end. This is a building in which the Jags are somewhat accustomed. Bortles has come into this stadium twice, losing both times, but only by 2 and 3 points, respectively. I see another close one where I’m inclined to take the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Jacksonville Jaguars plus 3.5 points.
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