Week 11 Preview: Titans @ Jaguars
By Nick Bishop
Sunday marks the first time this season the Titans have a repeat opponent. Our heroes must do battle with Jack Del Rio (with his career 1-2 postseason record) and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville has a 1-3 home record this year, the lone victory coming over the Houston Texans in overtime. Needless to say, this has been a disappointing season for the Jags, who many pundits predicted would make a deep playoff run. A team that traditionally prides itself on superior defense and a strong running game has been decidedly middle-of-the-pack in both categories (ranked 16th and 14th respectively). So with the season slipping away, and “chopping the wood” no longer sufficing, Del Rio has come up with a new gimmick: throwing his players under the bus. Team captain and leading tackler, Mike Peterson, has been demoted for insubordination, which is apparently a worse offense then losing back-to-back games against the Browns and Bengals. Anyway… speaking of axes, coach Del Rio certainly is a tool.
Titans Passing Offense vs. Jags Defense:
As a Titan’s fan, I’m starting to feel cautiously optimistic about our passing offense. Kerry Collins is coming off his best game of the year, our tight ends are having great years, and most importantly, we are starting to see some consistency at the wide receiver position (Hello Mr. Brandon Jones!). The Jags have allowed 8 passing plays of over 40 yards as well as 15 passing touchdowns (compared to 3 plays & 5 TD’s for the Titans). Having said that, Jacksonville’s secondary is as healthy as its been all year, and I don’t think we beat the Jags through the air.
Titans Rushing Offense vs. Jags Defense:
Tennessee was able to move the ball effectively on the ground in Week 1: Chris Johnson gained 93 yards on 15 attempts and LenDale White added 40 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Like Chicago, and most other teams we’ve faced this year, Jacksonville will make stopping the run their primary objective on defense. However, the Jags have allowed 4.4 yards per carry on the year. Our offensive line has been healthy all year and we’ve seen just about every type of run-stuffing defense, so I have to believe our coaches will put “Smash & Dash” into a position where they can be effective.
Jags Passing Offense vs. Titans Defense:
Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard is having a decent year, but overall has failed to live up to the season he produced in 2007. His uncanny 18/3 touchdown to interception ratio, which helped propel the Jags to the playoffs last year, now stands at a mortal 8 TD’s to 5 INT’s this season. Yet, the failure of the Jags offense cannot be fully attributed to him this season. Jacksonville has had injuries on the offensive line all year. TE Marcedes Lewis has been one of the few bright spots for in the Jags passing game (and admittedly, the Titans have struggled covering TE’s this year), as has Matt Jones (who is questionable for this one, both on and off the field). But the Titans have been very effective at keeping the passing game in front of them thus far, and the Jags don’t have the personnel to be the first to make them pay. No matter how desperate they are…
Jags Rushing Offense vs. Titans Defense:
It looks as thought the Titans will be without Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) for at least one more week. He has been struggling with this injury for over a month now. Now, there is word that rookie defensive tackle Jason Jones (who rotates on the line with “Big Al” and Tony Brown) will be out this week as well after sustaining a foot injury during last week’s Bears game. That means that it will be up to Titans backups, Dave Ball, Jacob Ford and Kevin Vickerson to continue to perform admirably in relief duty. Still though, this line just doesn’t have the same explosiveness without KVB. Hopefully his health is improving and the Titans can get him back on the field terrorizing quarterbacks.
Last week, Maurice Jones-Drew busted out in a big way, with almost 100 yards from the line of scrimmage and three touchdowns. Fortunately for them, they were playing the 0-9 Detroit Lions. On Sunday, they will face the 9-0 Titans. A little different. In their first meeting, MJD and his back field counterpart, the ageless Fred Taylor (how long has that guy been in the league?), combined for only 31 yards against the Titans. That was a much healthier Titans team, and the game was in Nashville, but still, I have a hard time imagining the Jags earning much north of 80 yards on the ground in this one.
Fun special team facts: Josh Scobee is an impressive 4 for 4 on field goals over 50 yards this year. The Titans lead the the league in kickoff returns and are below average in punt returns. Aforementioned Mike Peterson has been practicing with special teams this week. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s head-hunting or zoned out. Titans returner Chris Carr has been solid, if mostly boring (thesTitans fans have been spoiled by Pac-Man). Craig Hentrich is a baller, as anyone who watched last weee k’s game can attest to. Congrats to Craig, as he was just named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.
And just to meet our weekly quota, Rob Bironas.
Both teams are facing pressure. With every win, the Titans have more and more attention placed on them. They’ve already been asked questions about a perfect season over the last few weeks. The Jags on the other hand, are a loss away from going into free fall. They’ve played three bad teams in a row, with only one win to show for it. They’ve benched their defensive captain, and if things start going badly, the atmosphere on the sidelines might get frosty.
An emotional Jacksonville team keeps the game close early, but the Titans win the turnover battle, and a more physical Titans team wins going away.
Titans 24 Jaguars 13