Titans vs. Jaguars NFL Picks, Odds & Betting Preview

Jason Lake

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 1:17 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 1:17 PM UTC

We’ve got an important AFC South battle on our hands Thursday night – important for draftniks, that is. The NFL odds have made the Jacksonville Jaguars 3-point home faves against the Tennessee Titans.

Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals

You can see what the NFL had in mind when it decided to make Thursday Night Football a weekly thing. Except for the season opener between the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, all the games have featured divisional rivalries. One problem: Most divisions don’t have more than one really good team. Which leaves us with games like this Thursday’s tilt between the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12 SU, 3-10 ATS) and the visiting Tennessee Titans (2-12 SU, 4-9-1 ATS). Whoops.

At least this will be the last Thursday game of the season. And there’s actually something at stake: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Which of these teams can tank the hardest? The NFL  odds suggest it’ll be the visitors. Jacksonville has opened as a 3-point chalk, and as we go to press, the Jaguars are getting two-thirds support on our early consensus reports.

If we approach Thursday’s contest (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN) purely from a tanking perspective, it makes sense to add the Jags to our football picks. They’ve already got their presumptive franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles (70.6 passer rating), while the Titans are in desperate need of a golden arm – especially with Jake Locker (70.9 passer rating) going on injured reserve with a dislocated shoulder. If only Locker had been as durable as he was talented.

People haven’t been talking up the 2015 Draft the way they did last year’s crop, which included Bortles going to Jacksonville with the No. 3 pick. But there is one potential superstar quarterback in the making, and he’s at the top of Mel Kiper’s mock draft: Heisman winner Marcus Mariota from the Oregon Ducks. If the Titans don’t get Mariota, they’ll probably have to settle for the previous Heisman winner, Jameis Winston from the Florida State Seminoles. He’s got more baggage problems than United Airlines.

Oh, Charlie
Take the tanking out of the equation, and it’s pretty much a wash, which you’d expect with Thursday’s football odds pegging the home team at –3. Football Outsiders prefers the Titans at No. 30 overall (No. 29 offense, No. 28 defense, No. 20 special teams), just ahead of the No. 31 Jaguars (No. 32 offense, No. 16 defense, No. 28 special teams). Pro Football Reference, on the other hand, has Jacksonville slightly ahead at minus-11.3 SRS, compared to Tennessee at minus-11.8 SRS.

Ah, but don’t forget, the Titans won’t have Locker under center on Thursday. They also don’t have Zach Mettenberger (separated AC joint). That leaves Charlie Whitehurst (89.1 passer rating), who actually played quite well this year in relief of Locker. The Titans beat Jacksonville 16-14 when Whitehurst got the start in Week 6 – although it was the Jaguars earning the matador cover as 4-point road dogs.

Henne Given Thursday
Having said that, will Bortles start for the Jaguars? He suffered a mid-foot sprain in last week’s 20-12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens (–14 at home), which saw Bortles eat eight Baltimore sacks. The diagnosis was made after the game; Bortles was listed as questionable, although head coach Gus Bradley told reporters on Tuesday that Bortles was “progressing more quickly than expected.”

If Bortles can’t play, the Jags would presumably go with Chad Henne (80.7 passer rating), who lost the starting gig in Week 4. Henne’s raw numbers don’t look all that bad, but the advanced numbers (Warning: Small Sample Size Ahead) have him at minus-56.5 percent passing DVOA, which is even worse than Bortles at minus-38.5 percent – already last in the league among QBs with at least 100 passes thrown. We should have some clarity about the starting assignments when we return later this week with our NFL picks against the spread and total.

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