It appears that Blake Bortles will get the start for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. Does this make Jacksonville a better or worse NFL pick against the Tennessee Titans?
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place for Thursday night’s matchup (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN) between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley told reporters Wednesday that he was inclined to give Blake Bortles (sprained foot) the starting nod, although Bradley stopped short of making it official. He wants to see how Bortles looks during Thursday’s pre-game workout first.
We’re going to assume for now that Bortles (70.6 passer rating) will indeed get the start. In theory, Chad Henne (80.7 passer rating) may be the safer choice, but as we mentioned in our opening odds report, Henne’s numbers don’t look all that good when held up to the light. And it might not matter who plays quarterback anyway, if the Titans are going to tank this game. Jacksonville remains a 3-point home fave on the Week 16 NFL odds board as we go to press; that line could reach –3.5 pretty soon, as the Jags are receiving about two-thirds support from bettors.
Dismember the Titans
We’d consider recommending the Titans (2-12 SU, 3-10-1 ATS) for your Week 16 NFL picks, if it weren’t for the tanking dynamic. Not that Tennessee’s players intend to lay an egg on prime-time television. But they won’t have the same motivation to win as the home team, and the Jaguars (2-12 SU, 4-9-1 ATS) did manage to cover in Week 6 when they lost 16-14 to the Titans as 4-point road dogs in NFL odds.
That was the last time Tennessee won a game. And it was with Charlie Whitehurst (89.1 passer rating) under center. He’s performed the best of the three quarterbacks the Titans have used this year; however, Whitehurst will be playing behind an offensive line that looks much weaker than it did in October. In addition to LT Michael Roos (knee), the Titans have lost center Brian Schwenke (knee) and RT Michael Oher (toe), although those two players have been substandard this year. Sad to see Oher’s career apparently winding to a close.
Some good news for Titans fans, though: WR Kendall Wright (51 catches, five TDs) is expected to play Thursday after missing the past two games with a broken hand. TE Delanie Walker (52 catches, four TDs) is also expected to play through a knee injury, even though both he and Walker are listed as questionable, and have been limited in practice. They’re the top two receivers on the Titans, so they’d better play if Tennessee is actually serious about winning this game.
The Jaguars have had their own issues with the offensive line. The latest casualty is RT Austin Pasztor, who suffered a torn hamstring in Week 13 and is out for the season. Pasztor missed the first four games of the season with a broken hand; without his pass protection, the Jags went 0-4 SU and ATS – Henne was sacked 16 times in his three starts before giving way to Bortles.
Not that Bortles hasn’t eaten his fair share of turf this year. He’s been sacked 46 times in 11 starts, but without Pasztor in the lineup, Bortles was drilled eight times for a total loss of 63 yards in last week’s 20-12 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens (–14 at home). All told, the Jaguars rank last in the league in pass protection with an adjusted sack rate of 11.1 percent. The NFL average is 6.6 percent.
This is the one area where Tennessee could really take advantage on Thursday. The Titans defensive line ranks No. 11 on the pass rush (34 sacks, 7.0 adjusted sack percentage). But we’re buying into the tanking argument. The sooner this season ends for Tennessee, the better.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Jaguars -3.5 at BookMaker