Believe it or not, the smallest total on the Week 16 NFL odds board isn’t for Thursday night’s game between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. But we expect a low, low score anyway.
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
You can’t stop Old Man Winter. We haven’t had a lot of success with our weather-based NFL picks against the total, but in Week 15, the UNDER went 13-3 across the league to bring some sanity back to the football universe. Sadly, weather won’t help us this Thursday night (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN) when the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans. The forecast calls for mostly clear skies, light winds and temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
We might not need lousy weather for this game to go UNDER. The last time they met in Week 6, the Titans (UNDER 8-6) beat the Jaguars (UNDER 7-7) 16-14, never even threatening the 42.5-point total. The NFL odds have revised downward for Thursday’s rematch; the total was 41 at the open before slipping to 40 points as we go to press, with about 70 percent of bettors gleefully pounding the UNDER. Count us in.
Miles to Go
We’d be a little surprised if these two teams can even manage to combine for 30 points again. We talked about the injured offensive lines in our look at the spread; now let’s take a moment to whinge about their substandard special teams. Field goals have been few and far between; Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee is 19-for-24 this year, while Tennessee’s Ryan Succop is 16-for-19. Both clubs rank in the bottom quartile in attempts and makes.
Then you have their poor punt returning. Dexter McCluster (7.0 yards average) hasn’t generated many short fields for the Titans, and he’s expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jacksonville’s Ace Sanders (6.9 yards) has been even less dynamic. When the Titans and Jaguars met in Week 6, they combined for 26 punt return yards on six attempts. That’s not good.
It’s not like these two offense are capable of marching long distances, either. According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars rank No. 30 in the league in plays per drive at 5.24, while the Titans are dead-last at 5.08. The teams flip positions when it comes to points per drive: Tennessee (1.37) is No. 30, followed by Jacksonville (1.15) at No. 32.
The Blaine Game
Bortles (70.6 passer rating) has pretty much been given a free pass since taking over the starting gig from Chad Henne (80.7 passer rating). Maybe it’s just a case of lowered expectations after Jacksonville went through the Blaine Gabbert Experience (66.4 passer rating). But Bortles is among the very worst starting QBs in the league this year, according to the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders. Let’s run his numbers next to Gabbert’s rookie campaign:
Bortles 2014: minus-38.5 percent passing DVOA, 21.4 QBR
Gabbert 2011: minus-42.5 percent passing DVOA, 20.6 QBR
At least Bortles can claim to be better than Gabbert at this point in their respective careers. We should also point out that Washington’s Robert Griffin III has a worse passing DVOA this year at minus-40.1 percent, and Buffalo’s EJ Manuel has a worse QBR at 19.8. Otherwise, Bortles has been just brutal. He even makes Geno Smith (minus-23.9 percent passing DVOA) look good by comparison.
Again, a quarterback is only as good as his offensive line, and the Jaguars appear to have been complacent about this aspect of the game. Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union broke down the eight sacks Bortles absorbed last week against the Baltimore Ravens – five of them were against basic four-man rushes. And there was one instance where rookie RB Storm Johnson was sent out to block Terrell Suggs one-on-one. We’ll be more than happy to see that kind of pass protection against the Titans.
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