Scott Shapiro's Thursday Night Football preview: Titans at Jaguars
Between some poor opinions, a few unlucky bounces and a number of key injuries to players that affected sides I was on, it was a losing Week 2 for yours truly. I hope to turn things around Thursday night with an important early season tussle in the AFC South.
Over 39 (-115)
Under 39 (-105)
The Titans and Jaguars both come into Week 3 off of tough losses to divisional foes. It may be extreme to call a game in Week 3 a must-win, but the Jaguars can't afford to start the season 0-3 and the Titans will be up against it they lose their first two divisional contests.
Titans will pressure Minshew
After the loss of quarterback Nick Foles in Week 1 with a broken left clavicle, rookie Gardner Minshew has played better than most expected. The former Washington State signal caller has been far from perfect, but he has shown the ability to make most throws and also has used his legs to move the chains when plays break down. But he'll face his toughest defense to date in Week 3.
Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees did a brilliant job of confusing Baker Mayfield in Week 1 and held the Colts to just 19 points Sunday. I anticipate Pees will make life difficult on Minshew, especially with limited time to prepare.
Jaguars should focus on the run
Much like the Jaguars did in Houston, look for them to lean on Leonard Fournette on the ground, as well as the short and intermediate passing attack, with the goal to limit mistakes from their rookie QB. Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone will hope his offense can make a few plays, but will count on the defense to win. Barring big plays on defense or special teams, it is hard to imagine the Jaguars finding the end zone more than once or twice.
Quality defenses vs. shaky offenses
Tennessee's 19-17 loss to Indianapolis was a frustrating one for the Titans, because they won the turnover battle 2-0 and held down the Colts running game other than a 55-yard, fourth-quarter scamper by backup running back Jordan Wilkins. Indianapolis ran for 203 yards (6.2 yards per carry) behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in its opening-day contest in Los Angeles.
I have a ton of respect for the Titans defense, but their offense once again appears to be well below average. They rely heavily on the running of Derrick Henry, but the matchup against the Jacksonville front seven is a challenging one. Expecting a big game from the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner may be wishful thinking.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, but at this point, it is safe to call him a disappointment. He is reluctant to turn the ball loose and lacks big playmakers on the outside. At best Mariota is a game manager in his fifth pro season. He has faced two solid defenses to start the year, but will take on an even better Jaguars group that should be fired up in a must-win spot at home in prime time.
With two offenses that lack firepower and like to lean heavily on the running game, two defenses that are well above average and less than normal time to prepare, this game could look a lot like the 9-6 battle from September between these two squads.
Playing Under a low total is always nerve-wracking, because there is so little room for error, but this one has the feel of another grinder.