Thursday Night Football this week takes us to Nashville for what doesn’t seem like too exciting of a game on paper. The Jaguars just ended their seven-game losing streak last week with a 6-0 win over the Colts, while the Titans are somehow right in the thick of things for one of the last playoff spots in the AFC, despite having one of the worst offenses in the league.
Jaguars offense vs Titans defense
Say what you want about the Titans offense, but their defense is among the best in the league and the Jaguars also have one of the worst offenses in the league. Not too much confidence in the Jaguars offense should be taken away from their game last week even though they won, because they didn’t even manage to score a touchdown.
Cody Kessler will be making his second straight start for Jacksonville, but I’m not expecting him to do much of anything in this game because frankly he hasn’t been very good in his young NFL career so far and because he’s having to travel for a Thursday Night game against one of the better defenses in the league.
Any success the Jaguars have on offense will come down to how well they can run the ball and it will help mightily that they will be getting star running back Leonard Fournette back from his one-game suspension. Also, if there’s one part of the Titans defenses that’s most vulnerable it’s against the run. They aren’t bad against it, but it’s where teams have had more success this season than trying to pass on them.
I’m expecting the Titans to load up the box and make Cody Kessler and those receivers win one-on-one matchups on the outside and I’m not sure they can do that.
Titans offense vs Jaguars defense
There’s been a narrative out there that the Jaguars defense hasn’t been nearly as good this season and that’s just not true. They haven’t been quite as dominant as last season and they have had a few games where they got torched, but the bottom line is they’re only allowing 20.3 points per game, which is actually 0.1 points per game better than the Titans defense.
That front seven can still cause havoc and that defense as a whole really seemed to wake up last week when they shutout a Colts offense that had been playing pretty well. The Titans offense has also not been very good as it’s just been slightly less anemic than the Jaguars offense.
Now I do think the Titans have a better chance of putting together a good game on offense because they’re the home team and despite Marcus Mariota’s inconsistency, he is still a better quarterback than Cody Kessler and while he doesn’t have great weapons, outside of Leonard Fournette, he does still have better skill players around him.
The key to the Titans offense will, as usual, come down to how accurate Mariota can be down the field. On short and intermediate routes and in the redzone he performs really well, and they can usually run the ball at least decently well, but he’s inconsistent throwing the ball down the field, which hurts because this offense already produces limited chances for big plays and can’t afford him to miss when they do have those chances.
The kickers in this game are pretty even, but I’m giving the edge to the Titans because Brett Kern has been the better of the punters and the Titans have been much better in the return game this season and in a game that looks like it’s going to be low-scoring, field position will be huge.
As I said, I’m expecting a low-scoring game here, but I think Marcus Mariota will be able to make a few big plays, either being on throwing the ball down the field, or with his legs and them being at home will be a big factor as the Titans will pick up a big win coming down the playoff stretch.