Expect Nail-Biter Between Rival Jaguars and Titans

Rainman M.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:33 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2017 8:33 PM UTC

The Jaguars (1-0) and Titans (0-1) play each other this Sunday at 1:00 ET for the first time since the Jaguars cost the Titans a chance at the playoffs last December. The Titans are small favorites and the game total is set at 44.

The main reason for the massive hype surrounding the Titans is their level of talent on offense. Their week 1 showing does not put into question the talent of their rush attack, which is led by last year's AFC rusher of the year, of their offensive line, which gave up the seventh-fewest number of sacks last season, or of quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, the Titans have a lot of young weapons in the wide receiving corps who lack experience. They also signed veteran Eric Decker, who likewise needs time to develop chemistry with Mariota. The Titans have some new offensive pieces, which helps explain why they are struggling to enter into a rhythm. Last season, they likewise needed at least a month to find this rhythm.

The Jaguars' pass defense, steeled by shutdown corner AJ Buoye (less than 60 passer rating on passes thrown in his direction last season), has always dominated the lesser quarterbacks. Mariota is proven to be a different beast than Houston's quarterbacks. But he is not that same beast without chemistry with his receiving corps and help from his running backs, who go up against a Jaguars' defense that was 6th in rush yards allowed per carry last season. 

The Jaguars have improved their defense and will improve against the better quarterbacks. They have so much speed at linebacker with the side-to-side animal Myles Jack, who is now in his second year. Dante Fowler Jr., is also developing as a defensive end opposite veteran Calais Campbell from the Cardinals, who is proven in his run-stopping and pass-rushing skills. Yannick Ngakoue, like Fowler, is an early draft pick in his second playing year who achieved two sacks last week against Houston. Fowler is most impressive for the moves that he uses to get past blockers and the range of his pursuit. Ngakoue impresses with his ability to make plays even while being engaged by blockers and with his lateral quickness to contain running backs within the backfield The Jaguars have some young and rising athletes who are blossoming into superstars and whose speed will help them against the athletic Mariota.

The Jaguars, offensively, are a run-first team with a three-pronged attack that consists of rookie Leonard Fournette, TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory. This offensive focus plays into the hands of the Titans, who were second last season in rushing yards allowed. The Titans' strength is their defensive line, which does not have well-known superstars but does boast high-quality depth. One player worth knowing is Jurrell Casey. Casey has been to two consecutive Pro Bowls especially because of his versatility. He is stout enough to stop the run but also quick enough to get to the quarterback. The Titans' rush attack is also supported by two sack-machines at linebacker, in Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Both are elite edge-rushers who help force opposing teams to rely on the run by consistently applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

Part of the reason why the Titans achieved such good numbers against the run is their porous pass defense. The Titans got torched through the air and their best chance of succeeding defensively is to force other teams to run the ball. The Jaguars are therefore just the team that the Titans want to face. Bortles lacks the self-confidence and mechanics to be the prolific quarterback that he was in 2015. He didn't turn the ball over in Houston or give up any sacks behind his very underrated offensive line and that is essentially all that is required of him. He is playing conservatively. He is not really trusting himself to find open wide receivers, but instead concentrating on getting the ball to a predetermined receiver. The Jaguars, especially without top wide receiver Allen Robinson, do not have the tools to exploit an unreliable Titans secondary that features new faces and raw talent.


The Verdict

The Jaguars, offensively, will play into the strength of the Titans' defense because of their inability to trust Bortles. They will continue to be a run-first team and the Titans' will rely on the depth and quality of their defensive line to shut down the Jaguars' trio of running backs, which is led by the very unproven Fournette. The Titans' offense is lacking rhythm. But even if they develop comfort with each other on the field, they will have to deal with a top-ranked Jaguars defense whose raw talent on defense, in the form of speed and athleticism, is blossoming into a group of superstars. Overall, the Jaguars' defense has kept improving from last year's success, in which the Jaguars were 6th in total yards allowed.

Week 1 was a bloodbath for NFL bettors, who will react by trying to bet on the "safest" plays. The Titans, given all their hype, look to be one of those "safe" plays. Throughout the week, expect this line to grow to at least 3 points. If or when it does, note that the Jaguars are now 3-0 ATS under Marrone and are on a 5-0-1 ATS run against the Titans at home. Look to bet Jaguars +3.5 later in the week, who are capable of upsetting a team that doesn't really deserve to be favored against them right now in Jacksonville.

Another pick will be playable as soon as the line comes out on our NFL Picks. Note the following two trends: In the first two weeks of the season dating back to their first season in the NFL (1995), the first-half 'under' is hitting more than 75% of the time for the Jaguars.  Dating back to 2016, the first-half 'under' is hitting almost 80% of the time for the Jaguars when they are underdogs.

Free NFL Pick: 1H 'Under'  Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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