Tennessee Titans (-4.5, 43.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
For years, fans have mourned when the Tennessee Titans (8-6 SU, 6-8 ATS) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12 SU, 7-7 ATS) hook-up for their seemingly annual primetime date. The long-struggling franchises rarely have much to play for, even early in the season. But their tilt this weekend (Saturday, Dec. 24, 1:00 PM ET) is as meaningful as any they’ve had in recent memory. Of course, it’s also buried among six other 1:00 PM games.
The “meaning” of this game could scarcely be more different for the teams. The Titans kept themselves firmly in the AFC South title race with a stunning 19-17 comeback win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead last week. The Jags blew a 20-8 lead in Houston and promptly fired coach Gus Bradley immediately after.
Now, with offensive line coach Doug Marrone assuming the “interim” mantle, the Jaguars will look for any signs of progress heading into next year, while the Titans will look to do something they haven’t done since 2008: make the playoffs.
Tennessee’s run game (third in the league at 144.7 yards per game) was strong against KC, piling up 148 yards at 5.1 yards per carry.
Week 15 was hardly a banner day for QB Marcus Mariota (19/33 for 241 yards, with one interception and one fumble). He did play well when it mattered most, though, leading the team to a TD and a field goal on its last two drives.
The Jags defense was the converse against Houston, stifling the Texans early, but then bending a bit too far once the Texans made a QB switch to Tom Savage. The 387 yards surrendered to Houston’s anemic attack was surprising given that Jacksonville is top-ten in total defense (321.4 yards per game).
The team’s struggles on offense did not come as any sort of shock. Blake Bortles, who’s significantly regressed in his third season, was just 12/28 for 98 yards and a pick, continuing a disaster of a season. The team had just 150 total yards on the day.
While the Jags haven’t been awful against the spread this year, and teams tend to come out motivated after coaching switches, Tennessee is the play in this one.
The Titans need a win. A loss this week coupled with a Houston win (over the 5-8-1 Bengals) would hand the AFC South to the Texans before they lock horns in Week 17. So desperation mode will be fully activated. Moreover, the Jaguars can be run on; they give up 110.8 YPG on the ground. And few teams have been able to slow Tennessee’s two-headed rush attack of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
With Bortles’ led drives constantly flaming out early, the Jacksonville D is going to get worn down and eventually Tennessee will start to pull away.
Pick: Titans (-4.5).
Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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