Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10 SU, 5-8-1 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (7-7 SU, 6-7-1 ATS), Saturday December 24th, 2011. 1:00PM EST, NFL Football Week 16
LP Field Nashville, T.N.
By Jay Horne, NFL Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Jax +8/TEN -8
Over/Under Total: 40
A little over two weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans appeared to be playing well and many thought the Titans could make a late push to challenge for the AFC South especially after Houston lost QB Matt Schaub to a season ending injury. However, the Titans could not capitalize on a short yardage attempt as time expired against New Orleans and then were stunned by the winless Indianapolis Colts last week 27-13.
Those two losses basically wiped out any chances that the Titans had at making the playoffs. Still, Tennessee will look to make the best of their 2011 season over the next two weeks as they have a plausible chance to close out the year with two straight wins. Standing in the way of win number 1 this week will be a 4-10 visiting Jacksonville Jaguars team who will march into LP Field this Saturday looking to put their own struggles behind them as well.
The Jaguars were completely embarrassed by Atlanta last Thursday night 41-14. Jacksonville simply had nothing going in that game gaining just 207 total yards of offense and giving up 4 turnovers on the night. Unfortunately, that has been a common theme for the Jaguars in recent weeks as they have now lost 4 of their last 5 games. In those 4 losses, Jacksonville has averaged just 270 total yards per game and simply has not found many ways to move the football.
QB Blaine Gabbert took over the starting role behind center around the mid-season point. However, Gabbert has not been the answer to the quarterback problems completing just 50% passing for 1,924 yards with 11 scores and 10 picks on the year. As a result and just like most recent years, the Jaguars offensive success has ridden on the coat tails of running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew currently leads the NFL with 1,334 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. Any time you lead the NFL in rushing it is an honor, but the truth is Jones-Drew has had a considerable higher amount of touches this year running the football due to the Jaguars quarterback troubles. Still, expect the Jaguars running back to be the focal point of their offense yet again this Saturday.
For the Titans, they may have a quarterback controversy brewing as well. QB Jake Locker filled in for injured starting QB Matt Hasselbeck against New Orleans and played fairly well. Then last week in Hasselbecks’ return the starter completed just 27 of 40 passing for 223 yards with 2 picks. Locker finally relieved Hasselbeck to completed 11 of 16 passing for 106 yards while leading the offense to their only touchdown on the afternoon. Locker is a guy that has a lot of potential and the Titans just may give him the nod over the next two weeks to build something going into 2012.
Despite the quarterback carousel, running back Chris Johnson is still the ultimate playmaker for the Titans offense. Johnson had an extremely slow start this season but has picked up the pace over the 2nd half of the year and is now just 70 yards shy of the 1,000 yards rushing barrier. (Keep an eye on his situation this week, he’s having problems cutting and J. Harper may be getting a bunch of carries) Remember in 2009 Tennessee did not have much success throwing the football, but they paved the way for Johnson to carry the ball nearly 30 times a game which resulted in that huge 2,006 yard season.
The Titans were extremely effective then and they can be now when they getting Johnson running the ball efficiently. Just think even this year, Tennessee is 4-0 SU and ATS in games this year when Johnson rushes for more than 100 yards in a single game. Therefore, it will be critical again that the offense gets Johnson going and establishes some type of offensive success.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Titans rarely win by big margins and this Jacksonville team is eager to bounce back from their embarrassing performance against Atlanta. I expect a rather low scoring game in this one meaning 8 points has some value. Additionally, the Titans are just 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games at home. With those factors into consideration, I would make a small play on the Jaguars +8.
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