The Tennessee Titans head to Florida to try to earn their first win of the season and go to battle with the Jacksonville Jaguars and their staunch defense.
The Tennessee Titans must still have a bad taste in their mouth from their last meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags not only broke QB Marcus Mariota’s leg, but also dashed Tennessee’s playoff dreams with their Week 16 win over the Titans. These are two young teams trying to rise from the depths of the AFC South, and we might very well be witnessing a burgeoning rivalry that goes beyond standard divisional battles.
Titans fans can mock QB Blake Bortles all they want, but the fact remains: Bortles is 3-3 against Tennessee. Perhaps more impressive is his 12:2 TD:INT ratio in those games. Can this be the year the Titans shut him down and sweep the division series? New Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone seems to want to limit risk and hide Bortles’ weaknesses, so the Titans may not get a chance to take advantage of his erratic play. But Bortles will be without his star receiver, Allen Robinson, who tore his ACL in Week 1. Receivers Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee are no slouches, but they were both pretty quiet in Robinson’s absence last week. We figure to see Lee in the slot, with undrafted rookie Keelan Cole playing opposite Hurns on the outside.
Jacksonville appears to be adopting the 2016 Titans strategy of utilizing a power run game as the driving force of their offense. The Jags figure to lean heavily on rookie RB Leonard Fournette, whose mix of power and quickness makes him tough to bring down. Chris Ivory is the Derrick Henry to Fournette’s DeMarco Murray. Ivory will continue the power run attack while Fournette rests. Seeing Marshawn Lynch gain yards easily on the Titans in Week 1 is cause for concern, but expect the box to be stacked more often without the presence of a vertical threat the Oakland Raiders possess.
This defense is excellent. Titans fans are most likely tired of hearing about “Sacksonville”, but it’s the truth. The Jacksonville defense is currently 5th in DVOA and had an incredible 10 sacks against Houston in Week 1, only allowing 203 yards on the day. Granted, one game against a bad offense is a small sample size, but they were 12th in the league in DVOA in 2016 and captured perhaps the two best defensive free agents in the league (A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell). The Jags won’t be able to maintain their 10 sacks a game pace, but they are arguably a top-five unit in the league.
It is hard to pick a weak link in their defense. Malik Jackson and Campbell make for a nasty defensive interior, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack are rangy linebackers who fly all over the field, and Bouye and Jalen Ramsey could be the best CB duo behind the Denver Broncos. Ramsey is questionable for Sunday, but even if he plays the Titans should look his way early on to gauge how up to speed he really is. The other area for the Titans to attack would be the middle of the field and the slot. Look for Eric Decker to have a bounce back game and Delanie Walker to pick up where he left off last week. Houston Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz was able to have a solid game of four receptions for 46 yards last week, so a Pro Bowler like Walker should be able to do even more damage.
X- factor: Turnovers
Great defenses keep their teams in the game by creating turnovers. If the Jaguars and their lackluster offense want to win this game, they need to force turnovers. They were able to do it four different times against Houston, one of which led to a TD. And like I mentioned in the preseason, the Titans defense needs to create more turnovers of their own. The Tennessee offense was turnover-free against Oakland, but the defense didn’t garner any takeaways. In a game that figures to be a low-scoring affair, whoever wins the turnover battle may very well be the victor.