For what it’s worth, we suffered through some tough losses last week. The Saints held the Cowboys to 13 points, but could only scored 10. The Colts aloowed just 6 points, but couldn’t score against the Jags, and worst of all, for the first time ever, the Steelers blew a 14+ lead at home (23-7 at halftime) and dropped a 33-30 game to the Chargers. Thankfully, both the Broncos and Seahawks cashed so it wasn’t all bad/
On to tonight’s game:
JAX @ TENN
After seven consecutive losses, the 4-8 Jags finally won a game, beating the Colts 6-0. Meanwhile, the 6-6 Titans came all the way back from a 16 point deficit to nip the Jets 26-23 on an 11 yard Marcus Mariota TD pass with 36 seconds left.
Offensively, the Jags have struggled all season. They are averaging just 16.4 offensive PPG (rank #30), 335.2 YPG (rank #24), and 5.2 YPP (rank #29). Last week, the Jags had just 11 first downs, and 211 total yards. They averaged less than 4.0 YPP. By contrast, the The Titans are very strong defensively. They aregiving up just 19.2 offensive PPG (rank #4), 349.9 YPG (rank #9), and 5.5 YPP (rank #`10). Dwaaaa44444e331111999988
Last season, the Jags were a ground and pound football team. They ran the football almost 50% of the time (rank #1), averaging 141.2 rushing YPG (rank #1), with rookie RB Leonard Fournette rushing for 1,040 yards (rank #8). This season the Jags are running the ball just over 41% of the time (rank #17), and averaging 111.2 rushing YPG (rank #18). Fournette has already missed six games because of injury, and last week’s game because of a suspension. He has only rushed for 314 yards.
That means that the Jags have been forced to throw the ball more this season, and that’s been problematic. First of all the Jags don’t have a very good passing attack. They are averaging just 223.9 passing YPG (rank #24), and 6.3 YPA ((rank #28). Their starting QB,Blake Bortles, has been benched for the remainder of the season., and with good reason. Bortles is 24-48 as the Jags starter, with 13 TDs and 10 picks, and had thrown for less that 150 yards in 4 of his last 6 games. Turnovers have been one of Bortles' biggest issue. He leads the NFL in turnovers (93) and interceptions (74) since he entered the league in 2014. FO ranks Bortles #29 among NFL QBs.
As a result, backup QB, Cody Kessler, will get the start again tonight. Kessler, who the team acquired in a trade with the Browns for a 7th round pick in March, is now 1-8 as a starter after the Jags’ 6-0 win v IND last week. In that game, Kessler was 18 of 24 for 150 yards, with 0 TDs, and 0 picks, but was sacked 3 times.
Fournette will return this week, but it may not matter. The Titans aren’t great against the run. They are giving up 119.8 rushing YPG (rank #19), and 4.4 YPA. However, since Kessler can't throw deep (6.7 YPA), TENN should be able to stack the box with more defenders daring Kessler to beat them through the air. That would make it very difficult for Fournette to find running room.
If the Titans can bottle up Fournette, it'll be up to Kessler to move the chains. Good luck with that!. Kessler lucked out last week. First of all, the Jags never trailed, so Kessler wasn't forced to throw, and secondly, he also had an early pass that was nearly picked by three different defenders. However, it's unlikely that everything goes that right again this week. Kessler may have to throw the ball here, and the Titans do have a strong pass defense. They are giving up just 221.2 passing YPG (rank #5), and 6.8 YPA (rank #10).
Another problem for the Jags could be the OL. The Jags OL was missing three starters last week. RG AJ Cann is the only healthy lineman from the five OL starters back in Week 1. The Jags have given up 34 sacks (rank #19), and FO rank the Jags #18 in run blocking and #22 in pass blocking. By contrast, the Titans have 29 sacks (rank #20), and FO ranks their pass rush #17.
Offensively, the Titans also struggle to score. They are averaging just 18.1 offensive PPG (rank #28), 310.2 YPG (rank #28), and 5.2 YPP (rank #26). Last week, the Titans did outgain the Jets 403 to 280. By contrast, while the Jags D hasn’t been quite as good as they were a year ago, they are still way above average. They are giving up just 19.8 offensive PPG (rank #7), 315.6 YPG (rank #3), and 5.2 YPP (rank #4). The Titans could struggle here as well.
The Titans will try to establish their running game. However, when it comes to running the ball, the Titans are at best mediocre. They are averaging 112.7 rushing YPG (rank #17), and a measly 4.0 YPA (rank #29). The Titans will probably struggle to establish the run here. The Jags are still solid versus the rush, giving up 108.4 rushing YPG (rank #16), but just 4.1 YPC (rank #8). They limited the Colts to 41 rushing yards, and 2.6 YPC last week.
As a result, the Titans will have to throw the ball as well, with QB Marcus Mariota. The first problem is that the Titan’s aren’t a very good passing team either. They are averaging just 197.5 passing YGG (rank #29), but a healthy 7.0 YPA (rank #10). Mariota is completing over 68% of his passes with 11 TDs and 7 picks. He threw for 220 second half yards, and led the Titans with 43 yards rushing including a 25 yard scramble on the winning drive. WR Corey Davis (52 catches for 744 yards and 4 TDs) has been the Titans lone deep threat for most of the season, but WR Taywan Taylor (24 catches for 318 yards and 1 TD) is emerging, after catching a pair of 40+ yard bombs in their comeback win last week.
The second problem is that the Jags pass D has been pretty solid. They are giving up just 207.3 passing YPG (rank #3), and 6.4 YPA (rank #4), but they only have 9 picks (rank #20). The Jags’ secondary is vary capable, and did an excellent job last week covering Luck’s receivers. The Jags best CB, Jalen Ramsey played out of his mind despite being listed as questionable coming in. Covering the Titan mediocre WRs should be even easier for the Jags. However ,the Jags have stuggled to defend TEs, and pass catching RBs thanks to poor LB and S play, so the Titans should have some success when Mariota connects with RB Dion Lewis (45 catches for 309 yards and 1 TD) and TE Jonnu Smith (20 catches for 258 yards and 3 TDs).
A final issue for the Titans could be pass protection. They have already given up 42 sacks (rank #31), and Mariota was sacked 11 times against the Ravens and went down almost as many times against the Texans in a Monday night loss. The interior of the Titans’ OL isn’t very good, and RT Jack Conklin has been inconsistent. FO ranks their pass blocking unit at the bottom of the league, #32. The Jaguars only have 24 sacks this season (rank #27), but they were able to put constant pressure on Andrew Luck (3 sacks and 9 QB hits) , who hadn't seen much of a pass rush behind an improved OL that is much better than TENN’s. The Jags should be able to put some heat on Mariota tonight.
The total on this game when I bet it was 37.5. That’s low for today’s NFL., but I still like the UNDER here, at least for the first half.
Both of these teams qualify as offensively challenged. Combined, they average just 35.3 offensive PPG.
Defensively, both of these two teams are very good. They giving up a combined 40.6 PPG.
The Jags and Titans are both 1-3 to the UNDER in their division games this season. These two teams have also played to the UNDER 13 of their last 21 overall games,
As for the side, I lean to the Titans -4, which was the spread when I bet this on Tuesday.
Yes, the Titans struggle to score, so it’s hard to take them as a lagre or even medium favorite, especially if the JAX D that we saw last week shows up again.
However, the Titans are the better team. Fezzik rates them as 2.5 points better on a neutral field. Teddy Covers has them 3.5 points better. Even if I give the Titans just 2 for a below average home field advantage, the Titans should still cover this spread.
The Titans are better at home. At home they’re 4-1. They score 4.8 PPG more, and give up 3.1 PPG less. Meanwhile, the Jags are worse on the road, where they’re 1-4, score 0.9 more PPG, but give up a whopping 13.5 PPG more,
The Jags are out of the playoff race, and now must travel on a short week for a Thursday night game. The Titan are battling for a wild card spot, and coming off a huge comeback win just 4 days later. That’s the kind of momentum building win that can propel this team.
The Titans and Jags are pretty even talent-wise, but the Titans definitely have the much better QB. The Jaguars are starting one of the worst QBs in the league, and playing against bad QBs has been very profitable in today's NFL. This strategy was 3-1 last week. The Colts didn't quite get there, but the Broncos, Seahawks and Eagles all won and covered.
I also have some concern about the Jags being able to match last week’s intensity. I think that the team was thrilled to finally have Blake Bortles on the bench. The defense brought maximum intensity and with zero help from the offense, single handedly won the game. but doing it again just four days later doesn't seem likely.
Picks - TENN -4 (-102 for 2 units)
Pick – 1st half UNDER 18.5 (-107 for 3 units)