Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Week 18 Predictions

by | Last updated Jan 4, 2023 | nfl

Tennessee Titans (7-9 SU, 8-6-2 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8 SU, 8-7-1 ATS)
Week 18 NFL
Date/Time: Saturday, January 7, 2023 at 8:15PM EST
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Point Spread: TEN +6.5/JAC -6.5 (Bovada)
Over/Under Total: 40

The Tennessee Titans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday in AFC South action from TIAA Bank Field. This week 18 battle in a de facto divisional title game, as the winner moves on to the playoffs as the AFC South champion. A 31-3 win over the Texans last week kept Jacksonville in good form, as their fourth straight win put them in a position that seemed unattainable less than a few months ago. For Tennessee, however, their woes continued with a 27-13 loss to Dallas on Sunday being their 6th loss in a row, with only their previous win streak and the sad state of the AFC South keeping them in contention this long. Who can take the division in Jacksonville this week?

Playoff Ramifications

For the Titans, a win here gets them into the playoffs. A loss eliminates them from postseason contention. It’s a pretty sad reality for a team that at one point looked to be vying for the top seed in the AFC for the second straight season. And with Joshua Dobbs starting at QB, it just doesn’t create the look of a playoff-bound team. For Jacksonville, the situation is a little more complicated. Obviously, a win here makes them divisional champions. But being one game ahead of Tennessee also gives them another out. If they lose and the Patriots lose to the Bills on Sunday, the Jags will earn a wild-card spot. Playing on Saturday, there will be no clarity, leaving the Jags no other choice than to go all-out. And with the Bills’ schedule in a state of some murkiness, we’re not sure how that will play out. Suffice to say we should expect a couple of teams looking to go all-out this week.

The Henry Factor

We see many areas across this Tennessee team in the dumps. The “D” has fallen apart. The issues are dire at the QB position, with the Titans now three-deep in the QB barrel and struggling to find answers in the midst of a gigantic swoon. They are almost utterly inept aerially. It’s almost as if they’re reduced to simply one source of offense—Derrick Henry. And in big spots, he’s a factor that can surface, as he has carried this team on his back before. Making it less appetizing is the fact that Henry hasn’t been able to impose his will on a game during this near-two-month dry spell. And even when he goes off, we are still seeing low overall point-totals, as the Titans have little else to accent Henry’s dominance. Before this season, a Henry rampage meant a Titans rampage. But now, they’re just a team with a cruddy offense that happens to have a 1500-yard rusher on it.

In week 14, the Jags beat the Titans 36-22, with that point-total being the most Tennessee has scored in two months. Henry had 122 yards and a TD, but it wasn’t enough, as Trevor Lawrence feasted on an inept Tennessee pass defense, connecting wildly with TE Evan Engram all day long. So when one forecasts what it’s realistically going to take from Henry to surpass what the Jags bring to the table, it’s an enormous performance. He’s going to have to have one of his vintage late-season rampages to have the Titans in this game. It’d be one thing if they had a solid defense or some other options. But with Lawrence in full-flight, a full cast of talented ball-catchers, and a nice run game of their own with Travis Etienne, the Titans and Henry are really going to have to be in high gear. And let’s not forget that the massively-struggling Titans offense will be facing a Jacksonville defense that has allowed a combined 6 points in their last two games.

The Power of Inertia

Time and again, we’ve seen the NFL not follow script. You can make the soundest reasoning, and then what happens on the field defies logic. It’s just that, in this case, the division might be stark enough to make it a factor. It’s really a case of two teams on completely opposite trajectories in the late season. Many people will cite the urgency as a cause to get behind Tennessee. But it hasn’t worked as they dropped two straight games, then three, then four, and on and on it goes without urgency or panic registering in any way. If it were in them to impose their will, overcome all their injuries and other adversities, and reverse form, it would have happened before now. Contrast that with what was once a sideways Jaguars team and how they rose to the occasion in the final third of the season. It sets up a striking contrast that is hard to ignore. Sure, we see things like team-form lead us astray, as it can change on a dime. But with the stakes this high and the radical dichotomy between the forms of the respective teams, reversing the tide just seems like such a monstrous task for the Titans.

Lay the Number

I won’t deny that this looks trappy. The storyline is almost too convenient—a streaking Jaguars team showing heart and making an impassioned postseason run against a reeling Titans team on the road. And sure, the Jags aren’t immune to suddenly reversing form, as Henry takes over this game, and the Titans just find a way to get it together for a few hours. But with what the Jaguars have become, with Lawrence blossoming, the power of the varied aerial and ground cast, and a “D” that has more regularly shown its fangs, more scenarios seem to shake out for a thorough-enough Jaguars’ win to get us the cover this Saturday. I’m going with Jacksonville this week.

Loot’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Jacksonville Jaguars minus 6.5 points.