Folks, it’s Titans Week. From 1999, to the ‘home away from home’ comments made by former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, to the ‘keep chopping wood’ reference, Jacksonville just does NOT like Nashville. As far as rivalries go, it’s arguably the biggest in team history right there with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The dislike between the fanbases is real. I don’t know a single Jaguars fan who dislikes a team more than the Titans. These games can often be ultra-physical, and I expect no less on Sunday.
Alright Duval faithful, let’s preview this pivotal game and end it with a prediction, yeah? If you don’t like it, cool. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter- @HindenburgScout
Time, Location Etc…
The Jacksonville Jaguars are scheduled to face the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tennessee at Nissan Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:00pm ET. The high for the day is projected to be a mild 74 degrees with humidity hovering around 60%. Sunny skies and minimal wind should make for a wonderful Fall football atmosphere. Alas, there will be no fans to see it in person, as COVID-19 has led the team and local officials to leave the stands closed, at least temporarily. Barring a shift by Mother Nature, the weather should play no role in the outcome or performance. The time zone difference is one hour for the Jaguars, so it is not a difficult adjustment nor is it a long travel. It is worth noting that the Titans played Monday, September 14th.
Tale of the Tape
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0): Coming off of an impressive – and to many unexpected – victory over division rival Indianapolis Colts. The defense recorded two interceptions but just one sack in the opener, surrendering 445 yards and multiple explosive plays. They’re coming off of a season that saw the defense give up more than 2200 rushing yards. They had an incredibly efficient passing offense in Week One, with Gardner Minshew completing 19-of-20 passes for 3 touchdowns. The Jaguars are 1-5 against the Titans in the last 3 seasons, and have been outscored by a total of 140-81 over that same time span. The Jaguars have not won a game in Nashville since 2013.
Tennessee Titans (1-0): The Titans narrowly escaped Denver with a 16-14 victory, due in large part to three missed field goals and an extra point. They rushed for 130 yards in the opener, led by reigning rushing king Derrick Henry, who holds an all-timer of a highlight reel 99-yard touchdown run against.. the Jaguars. The Titans finished 2019 as one of the better teams defensively, relying on the strength of the defense and the rushing attack to an AFC Championship Game, a 35-24 loss to eventual Super Bowl winning Kansas City. They have won 5 of the last 6 against the Jaguars and hold a commanding 30-21 lead in the all time series. The Titans have won the last six meetings in Nashville.
Head to Head
Ryan Tannehill V. Todd Wash: Ryan Tannehill didn’t have to do much last November, but he was incredibly efficient. 14-of-18 for 259 yards and two touchdowns is a winning formula. He hit nine different receivers in a 42-20 blowout victory. It’s a limited sample size, but enough of one. Wash had no answers. Edge: Titans
Titans Offensive Line V. Jaguars Defensive Line: While I do not anticipate the Jaguars to struggle to generate a pass rush to the degree they did last week, they are going to struggle. The Titans front is solid, experienced and has a clear advantage on Sunday. Edge: Titans
Titans Skill Positions V. Jaguars Coverage: Forgive me, but I’m not buying Corey Davis after his Monday night performance. While remarkable, I believe Herndon/Hayden can match him. If CJ Henderson can contain AJ Brown, this tilts heavily in the Jaguars favor. It is a big test for the rookie, who’s biggest questions coming into the league surround physicality, and that is AJ Brown in a nutshell. Edge: Jaguars
Gardner Minshew V. Mike Vrabel and Co.: The Titans are electing to play 2020 without a true defensive coordinator. Given that Drew Lock was able to consistently find weaknesses in the Tennessee secondary, even without star Courtland Sutton on the field, Minshew will have have no problems identifying the scheme in front of him and checking into the most advantageous play. Minshew’s football IQ is his trump card. Edge: Jaguars
Jaguars Offensive Line V. Titans Defensive Line: LOL. This is the biggest mismatch on paper. Marrone’s faith in this unit will be put to the test this week as the Titans have a ferocious front led by recent addition Jadeveon Clowney and rising star Jeffrey Simmons. Edge: Titans
Jaguars Skill Positions V. Titans Coverage: Both units have bonafide stars in DJ Chark and Kevin Byard. Outside of those two, it’s really kind of a wash. Malcolm Butler and Johnathan Joseph aren’t a great duo at corner, but the Jaguars are young and mainly unproven behind Chark. Expect Byard to be lurking near 17 constantly in an attempt to force Minshew into a mistake. Edge: Even
Jaguars Special Teams V. Titans Special Teams: Given Monday’s, ahem, turbulent day for the Titans, this is worth noting. The team must feel like every drive that crosses midfield is touchdown or bust. Meanwhile, Josh Lambo has converted 73-of-77 since joining the Jacksonville Jaguars. If this game turns into a kicking battle? Edge: Jaguars
What Must Happen
- Make Ryan Tannehill beat you. Derrick Henry CANNOT run for 150+ and multiple touchdowns. If he does this game is blowout city.
- Stop, well, slow down, Derrick Henry. Worth being number one and two, there is no bigger concern than this.
- Communication in the secondary must be on point. Tannehill is no X-Factor at quarterback, but if the defense has blown coverages with tight ends and receivers running free, he will make it hurt.
- Win the turnover battle. The very nature of the Titans offense lends itself to a heavy time of possession per drive. This defense will surrender points. Similar to last week, the unit needs to step up for a big play or two and give the offense a short field on an extra possession.
- Have explosive plays in the downfield passing game. The Titans defensive front seven is capable of overwhelming the offense and controlling the game. If forced one-dimensional and the gameplan is similar to last week’s, in which Minshew’s average depth per attempt was only 4.8 yards, an opportunistic secondary will begin jumping routes. Explosive plays downfield to soften the box and keep the secondary honest are absolutely critical. Building off of that…
- Trust the ‘Stache. Gardner Minshew had to have exceeded all expectations in Week One, with his lone incompletion being a drop by Laviska Shenault. He played point guard to perfection last week, finding the right reads and being incredibly accurate in his deliveries. This week, they need more. Trust Minshew enough to open up the playbook and attack the defense with deep and intermediate routes.
Key Match Ups
- Derrick Henry vs. Jaguars front seven
- CJ Henderson vs. AJ Brown
- Josh Allen vs. Taylor Lewan
- DJ Chark and Viska/Cole/Conley vs. Malcolm Butler and Johnathan Joseph
Duval, I promised objective coverage. No bias. If this were a team like the Titans in the same circumstances, I’d predict a Jaguars road victory to take early control of the division. Unfortunately this is the Titans. Momentum and confidence are two crucial factors in success. I have nothing to say as to how the Jaguars could or should have either of those playing against that team, in that stadium. Minshew magic will try valiantly, but only succeed in preventing a total blowout. Official prediction: Titans win 28-17.