Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 14, 2017 at 11:30 AM
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TENNESSEE TITANS (0-1) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, EverBank Field. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta.

SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 24-20. Last time there was a series sweep was in 2008. Last year's two games produced double-digit wins by both teams on their home fields. The previous six games were all decided by eight points or fewer. The biggest game between the two teams came on Jan. 23, 2000, when the Titans scored 23 unanswered points in the second half for a 33-14 win the AFC Championship Game before 75,206, the second largest home crowd in Jaguars history.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Titans got away from their supposed identity Sunday in losing to Oakland, throwing the ball 41 times and running it only 21 times for 95 yards. The Titans have to be concerned about the Jaguars' defense, which had 10 sacks and forced four turnovers in hammering the Texans. The Titans' offensive line is better than Houston's, but the Titans still need to run the ball more efficiently with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and use play action to help neutralize the Jaguars' pass rush.

No need for the Jaguars to change the game plan from a week ago. They went into the Houston game convinced they could run the ball right at defensive end J.J. Watt, and they did. They churned out 155 yards on the ground and took the pressure off quarterback Blake Bortles, who did not need the big play through the air to win. Look for another heavy dose of Leonard Fournette with adequate relief from Chris Ivory as the Jaguars strive for a 160- to 180-yard rushing attack.

The Jags must contain talented Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. They are not likely to match the team-record 10 sacks they had last week, but they will need to put enough pressure on Mariota to minimize his time to find open receivers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Jaguars LT Cam Robinson vs. Titans LB Brian Orakpo. Robinson may think he deserves a week off after passing the test with flying colors against Houston's solid defensive front last week. Robinson and others helped hold J.J. Watt to just one tackle and very little pressure on Blake Bortles. While that was a successful debut for Robinson, there isn't any time for a let-up as Orakpo will be a challenge. The outside linebacker likes to blitz and he'll be coming right through Robinson. His ability to contain Orakpo and open holes on the left side for Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory will go a long way toward determining whether the Jaguars can make it two wins in a row over divisional foes.

--Titans Pro Bowl LT Taylor Lewan vs. Jaguars DE Calais Campbell. Lewan and the Titans' offensive line did OK in pass protection last week, but they probably would prefer not to pass block 41 times a game like they did against Oakland. When the Titans do pass, they must account for Campbell, who had four sacks last week. He can line up inside, meaning OG Quinton Spain and C Ben Jones might be responsible for him in certain looks. Lewan, with his athleticism, is the Titans' best pass blocker and, even if he needs help, the Titans need to keep Campbell off Mariota.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Titans WR Rishard Matthews. While much of the attention was on the new weapons that Mariota has at the receiver position in Eric Decker, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, it was clear that Mariota still was plenty reliant on Matthews. The 2016 free-agent signee, who had 65 catches a year ago, caught five passes for 71 yards against Oakland. His 24-yard catch was Tennessee's biggest gain of the day.

FAST FACTS: Titans QB Marcus Mariota passed for 256 yards and rushed for a TD last week. He has six passing TDs vs. one INT and 126 rushing yards in the past three meetings. He has not thrown an interception in four straight division games. ... Titans RB DeMarco Murray has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in two of the past three meetings. Since 2013, he leads the NFL with 37 rushing TDs and ranks second with 4,999 yards rushing. ... Titans LB Brian Orakpo has two forced fumbles and a sack in two games at Jacksonville. ... In the last three meetings, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has thrown for 984 yards (328 per game) with nine TDs and no interceptions. ... Jaguars rookie RB Leonard Fournette rushed for 100 yards and a TD last week and is the first RB in franchise history with100 yards rushing in his NFL debut. ... Titans CB Jalen Ramsey had a pick-six and four passes defensed in the last meeting. He has 16 passes defensed, two picks and a forced fumble in the past six games.

PREDICTION: This will be a game in which either Mariota or Fournette decides the outcome. They will both make the game watchable, but Mariota seems due to have a breakout year despite a slow start vs. Oakland.

OUR PICK: Titans, 24-17.

--Frank Cooney

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