On Thursday night, NFL football goes to TIAA Bank Field for the Titans and Jags in an early AFC South showdown. Tennessee has some questions to answer while Jacksonville finds themselves in a bit of early-season turmoil. Let’s take a closer look at the teams, the line, and the outcome of this game.
The Jags are looking to get their first win of the young season at a time they could really use it. A loss to Tennessee and they will find themselves at 0-3 and a big hole in the division. The season began with Nick Foles, who came over from the Philadelphia Eagles, under center. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken left clavicle in the 2019 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. This forced the team to go to rookie back up quarterback Gardner Minshew II. As insurance for Minshew, the Jags traded with the Pittsburgh Steelers for Joshua Dobbs. So the position is now in a very delicate state with lots of inexperience.
At running back is their regular workhorse in Leonard Fournette. The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to live up to his full potential. That has also boiled over with fantasy football owners that keep drafting him. Through his first two seasons, he has been injured often and has played in just 21 regular-season games. He is finally healthy but has yet to have a productive game this year. In order for the Jags to avoid having a really bad year, Fournette is going to have to learn to carry the load and the team.
Coming into the 2019 NFL season, the Jags defense ranked fourth in the NFL. They boast some of the best names on paper on this side of the ball. DT Marcel Darius and DE Calais Campbell lead a stout defensive front. MLB Myles Jack anchors the linebacking corps and AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are two pieces of one of the best defensive backfields in the game. But now, the issues with Ramsey and his wanting to be traded, have put a bigger dent in their season. Last Sunday, Ramsey, and head coach Doug Marrone were seen in a shouting match that has to have splintered the locker room. If you look at the tape closely, you do not see a single player come to the defense of the coach or to stop Ramsey. A trade is now forthcoming and the question is will Ramsey even play while they seek a trade partner? He has made it clear he wants to play in the meantime.
The Titans come into this 2019 NFL season with some questions that need to be answered as well. Will Marcus Mariota, on his fifth-year option, turn the corner and become a franchise quarterback? Is RB Derrick Henry the long term answer in the backfield? Will they find their #1 receiver in the group they now possess?
Mariota was the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and has yet to show he can be the man of the future for this team. Yes, there have been flashes and moments. But, there have also been many times he has made bad decisions, shown times of regression and made even the most loyal fan doubt whether he is the future for Tennessee at the QB spot. There are a few things he needs to address for him to answer those questions. He must get better at taking advantage of opportunities he is given at times like hitting the wide-open receivers. He has got to do better at staying away from third and long situations. He tends to hold the ball too long at times and has to improve at the check downs. On Thursday, he gets to show he can improve on all these facets of the game in primetime. This is going to be crucial if the Titans hope to contend in the division this year.
Derrick Henry showed what a powerful back he was at Alabama and has, at times, shown that same thing in the NFL. He has been really effective at this when he is having a good game and he gets into the fourth quarter. A downhill back that can punish you but has yet to show that he can take over an entire game. Part of that issue may be the Titans ineffective use of their tailback. He played just 50% of the snaps in Week 2 as opposed to 61% in Week 1. The team has been accused of not utilizing the big back often enough since he got to Tennessee. It is crucial that the team does not put all the burden on the shoulders of Mariota and they can do that by giving Henry the ball more.
As for the receivers on this team, TE Delany Walker is back and looking as good as ever. He is Mariota’s go-to when the going gets tough. Adam Humphries comes to the Titans from Tampa Bay and he is a reliable slot receiver that can get off the line of scrimmage and create space for himself in the open field. Corey Davis was the only guy the team could count on last year at this position, but he still needs to be more effective with the skill set he brings. Rookie, AJ Brown has had a good start to the season, but he is still young and will get limited chances until he shows he can be trusted a bit more. Of course, there is Dion Lewis coming out of the backfield. He can be an effective weapon for Mariota when used properly.
Though the game is being played in Jacksonville, the Titans are a 1.5 point favorite by most oddsmakers. Considering the lack of experience at QB for the Jags and the turmoil that surrounds them with the Jalen Ramsey situation, I look for the Titans to cover this spread. The over-under is currently sitting at 40 at the writing of this article. That may change as we get closer to game time. I do not expect much offense from Jacksonville and one never knows what to expect from the Titans. They scored 43 points in the season-opening win versus the Browns but came back with just 17 in a loss to the Colts. Of course, you can always log on to turboluck.com. There, you will find different sites where you can get the best odds on your favorite games of the week. You will be able to get reviews, online casinos and even a bonus for your play.
Look for Tennesse to use Henry early and often. Mariota will be effective and use his legs wisely to keep drives going. The Jags will look to see if they can get any momentum with Minshew. Will Ramsey play and if he does, will the defense be effective? Look for this to be a closer game than it should be because let’s face it, this is what these two teams do when they face each other. The final score from Jacksonville should be 23-17 Tennessee when the final whistle blows Thursday night.