The winless Jaguars will travel to Nashville Tennessee and face the 4-4 Titans Sunday in a game that for the Titans at least still have AFC South implications. The Titans are only 2 games behind the 6-2 Indianapolis Colts and are still very much in the playoff hunt. This isn’t a “must win” game in the traditional sense but it’s importance cannot be overstated. It’s a must win in terms of controlling their destiny.
To say the Jaguars have struggled this year would be an understatement but the Titans cannot afford to take this game lightly. The lead the series with the Jaguars 20-16 but let’s not forget last year the Titans, coming off a bye no less, gave the Titans one of only two wins during the 2012 regular season.
The Jaguars are without 2013 first round pick Luke Joeckel offensive tackle who is on injured reserve with an ankle injury. They are without 2012 first round pick wide receiver Justin Blackmon who is serving another suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He won’t be eligible to return until 2014 at the earliest. The Titans have some injuries but have not lost a key component to their team yet. This is one of the deepest Titans teams in recent years.
The biggest matchup to watch is Maurice Jones Drew against the Titans defense that gave up big yards to rookie running back Zac Stacy in Week 9, including a 9 yard touchdown run. The Titans run defense has sunk to 26th in the league after starting the year on a strong note. The Jaguars are averaging a league second worst average at 66.4 yards per game. The Titans defense cannot allow the Jaguars to run the ball on them.
On the opposite side of the ball, Chris Johnson will be going up against the league’s worst run defense in the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are allowing 161.8 rushing yards per game and have allowed a league high 13 rushing touchdowns. After putting up big numbers in the rushing game in Week 9 all eyes will be on Johnson to see if he can put together back to back 100+ rushing yard performances.
The Titans offensive line will face former Titans defensive end Jason Babin and former Titans defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. The offensive line got mostly good grades from me in the Week 9 tilt against the Rams but there is definitely room for improvement. Can the Titans continue to utilize their running backs in the screen game? It was highly successful against a pretty good Rams defense. Marks is having a nice season in Jacksonville and he and Babin both have 2 sacks.
Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne has shown he can make plays against the Titans he has beaten them as a member of the Miami Dolphins as well as the Jaguars. The Titans have 22 sacks on the season and need to get pressure on Henne. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is back in the lineup and has been a matchup problem for the Titans in the past. Henne is 2-2 versus the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans will once against start Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker with Moise Fokou still recovering from a knee injury. McCarthy missed a couple of tackles against the St. Louis Rams but he also made some nice plays. Head coach Mike Munchak has said he is improving so keep an eye on him to see whether he continues to regain the form that led him to be named the leader on the defense as a rookie in 2011.
Cecil Shorts is the best wide receiver for the Jaguars right now but undrafted free agent Mike Brown has been making plays. They will face a Titans secondary that is shutting down some good wide receivers right now. Right cornerback Alterraun Verner is tied for 2nd in the league in number of passes defensed with 13. Both he and left cornerback Jason McCourty are ranked in the top 5 cornerbacks per Pro Football Focus.
The game kicks off at noon at L.P. Field and you can catch it live on CBS Sports. The Titans are favored by 13 points per Vegas betting lines. The Titans are coming off a big win at St. Louis while the Jaguars are coming off a bye week.
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