Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Pick
Tennessee Titans (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday September 23, 1:00 PM EST
Where: TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fl.
By: Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: Ten +6½ / Jax -6½
An AFC South battle in North Florida is on tap for week 3. The Titans travel to Jacksonville with the winner holding at least a portion of the division lead. Jacksonville took down the AFC Champion Patriots in week 2 to advance to 2-0 both in the standings and at the betting window. The Titans pulled off a week 2 upset as a home dog against the Houston Texans to even their record reward those bettors that took the 3 points with the Titans. Marcus Mariota was sidelined with an elbow injury, but he was active that implies he should be able to take the field in Jacksonville.
Who Needs Leonard Fournette
Jacksonville was also missing its most notable offensive player in week 2 – running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette tweaked his hamstring in New York in week 1 and couldn’t answer the bell on Sunday. The Jags standard game-plan is to pound Fournette and keep the ball out of Bortles’ hands, so Sunday plan B would have to be in play. Plan B was a pass heavy attack with Bortles throwing the ball on 65% of the snaps on his way to 377 yards and 4 touchdowns. Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was not shy about Bortles throwing on first down, and the plan worked just as it was drawn up. Jacksonville jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and coasted home in the second half. Keenan Cole and Dede Westbrook are leading the receiving crew with a total of 19 catches on the year and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has pitched in with 6 catches. Each has reached the end zone.
With Fournette on the sideline, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant manned the backfield. Yeldon averaged 5.8 yards per carry on his 10 attempts, and though Grant only gained 13 yards on the ground, he also caught 6 balls for 56 yards. Grant and Yeldon give the Jags a more divers attack than Fournette and I would expect Grant’s playing time to continuously increase through the year. Fournette may return for Sunday’s division contest. When healthy, Fournette can get tough yards and move the chains in the 4th quarter to close out a win.
The Titan defense has only allowed 44 points in their 2 games, but they are allowing 6.5 yards per play that is 28th in the league. Tennessee’s defense was expected to improve this year with one of the best trio of cornerbacks in the league, but both Miami and Houston had success moving the ball through the air. The Titans do have 5 sacks and 3 interceptions to their credit and are also 9th in the league at stopping their opponents on 3rd down. This has kept the points off the board, but these stats may not be sustainable unless the yards per play comes down. The Jags offense will be a challenge for this Titan D. They have one of the best O-lines in the league and if Bortles continues his steady play, it could will be a long day for Tennessee’s defense.
Mariota or Gabbert – Does It Matter?
Mariota attempted 16 passes in the week 1 game in Miami before an elbow injury knocked him out of the game. Blaine Gabbert took over and continued under center in week 2 against the Texans. Mariota is the marquee name, but since the beginning of last year he has not played up to his draft pedigree. Mariota is expected to play and the line is based on him playing, but the line will only make a small move if it is Gabbert. The bigger concern for Tennessee this week may be who is playing tackle. Jack Conklin is working back from an ACL injury, and Taylor Lewan suffered a concussion in week 1 and has yet to clear the protocol. Back-up tackles against the Jag pass rush is a bad combination. 2nd year receiver Corey Davis is leading the pass catchers with 11 receptions, but his longest catch is only 18 yards. No other receiver has more than 3 catches or 32 yards. The Titans have also lost tight end Delanie Walker for the year which has taken Mariota’s favorite receiver off the field.
Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry are the backfield tandem but are only averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Lewis is more of an asset in the passing game and seems to be the leader of the tandem. Henry rushed for 144 yards in the 2 games against Jacksonville last year, so look for the Titans to try to establish the run early in this contest.
Jacksonville’s defense has picked up right where they left off last year. They are allowing 17.5 points per game and 5.1 yards per play, with one of the two games being against the Patriots. They have only 4 sacks and 3 turnovers, but they controlled the game against Patriots and were all over Eli Manning and the Giants in week 1. It’s hard to imagine how the Titans are going to put points on the board in Jacksonville. Gabbert only threw for 117 yards against the Texans, and Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye should be able to shut down Davis. Tennessee doesn’t have enough weapons to challenge the Jag defense, especially with sub-par quarterback play. The Titan’s best play against the Texans was a fake punt, which can’t be counted on this week.
The Jags are the play here. The Titans are a wounded duck and the talent disparity between these 2 teams is too much to overcome. Jacksonville would be a candidate to for a let-down week, but the Titans beat them twice last year so that should be enough to keep the Jags focused. The Titan receivers are overmatched against Jacksonville’s secondary, and the running game hasn’t gotten on track in the first 2 games. Either Mariota or Gabbert will be under pressure all day which will lead to mistakes. Jacksonville will be able to move the ball and put points on the board. If they get a lead and turn loose the pass rushers this game could get out of hand. The Jags are a square play and the public will be all over the home favorites, but I believe the Jags will keep rolling.