No matter how optimistic you try to be it is hard to get excited about this Thursday Night Football matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Both teams are currently .500 or below and the two played out a 9-6 thriller in Week 3. Unfortunately this game also suffers from the magnitude of the two Thursday night games either side of. Last week we had an NFC playoff preview between the Saints and Cowboys and next week we have a clash of the titans game in the AFC West. Therefore, a matchup between two teams unlikely to be in the playoffs is not exactly going to get the juices flowing.
However, there is a lot at stake in this game. The Titans only real hope of making the playoffs is to win three of their remaining four games and with them facing the Colts in Week 17 this one could be the decider whether they are in the mix or not. For the Jaguars there is pride and in some cases careers at stake. Cody Kessler and Doug Marrone are the main two with their footballing lives at stake but there are other players who need to impress as well.
So let’s break down the keys to this match for either side.
The run game
This is probably going to be the biggest factor for both teams. The Jaguars are 27th in the league in net passing yards per attempt and Tennessee are 20th. In addition, both defenses rank in the top-10 best in preventing passing yards. Neither team is exactly setting the world alight with their running game either but they both need it to function to have success.
The Jaguars are quarterbacked by Cody Kessler so they are unlikely to just open the taps and throw the ball all over the field. The Titans are more likely to take that approach but they should not get too aggressive. The Jaguars defensive line is really good and if they can just focus on the pass then they could cause havoc. If the Titans can get production from Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis then they might be able to buy Marcus Mariota some time to throw deep on play action.
This game has a good chance to come down to which teams makes the least mistakes. In the 9-6 game the Jaguars turned the ball over once and Titans did not. The Titans won. It is not just the offense that need to be careful however. In a game that is likely be decided by a handful of points one defensive miscue could also be crucial. On missed assignment could be the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. One missed tackle the difference between a punt and points. One major thing for the Jaguars defense is the potential let down game. They were so good on Sunday that it will be hard to come back four days later and reproduce that performance. If they were facing an explosive offense I would be more worried but I still have a concern they might fade down the stretch.
There is really not much to write about in this game. Both defenses have had their moments this year and this is another game for them. My feeling is that the defense who plays best will win. I know that is sort of self explanatory but what I am trying to say is that I cannot see an offense going and winning this game. We have seen multiple games in our lives where a defense has balled out for 60 minutes but the opposing offense has just done enough to win. The Cleveland Browns had it happen multiple times early this season.
In games like this I am always going to lean towards the home team. In addition, on Thursday Night Football the favourite won the first 10 games straight up and against the spread. However, in the past three weeks they are 1-1-1. In a game like this I am leaning towards the Titans giving up four points but I have concerns about betting on it.
The over/under is more tempting to me but set at just 37.5 it is extremely low for me. That few points can often go over almost by accident, with a defensive touchdown or a moment of brilliance. However, I struggle to see the Jaguars scoring much into double digits and I cannot see the Titans going far over 20 points. Therefore I am going to put a single unit on the under so that at least if it is a slow plodding type game I have something to be pleased about on Friday.