JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2017 season, eight Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton and J.P. Shadrick – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if:They're not looking towards the playoffs. Tennessee has more to play for with a win needed for the Titans.
The Titans will win if: They have a balanced attack offensively. Head Coach Mike Mularkey stresses physicality. Can running back Derrick Henry run it more than 20 times with running back DeMarco Murray out?
As Ballou sees it:Titans, 21-20. This will be a 60-minute game, but Tennessee needs the win to advance to the playoffs.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if:This is a game where winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be critical. In the first matchup, the Titans won this battle and it was a big reason they won. If the Jaguars can be more physical, they will win the game.
The Titans will win if:They can win the turnover battle like they did in the Week 2 matchup. It was a couple of Blake Bortles turnovers and a big punt return that set up short fields for the offense and easy scores. If they can do this again, get a lead and then play smash-mouth football they will sweep the regular-season matchup.
As Boselli sees it:The Jaguars rebound after an off week on defense and play their most physical game of the season. The Jags will come out with a chip on their shoulders, and will win the physical battle this week in Tennessee. It will be a tough close divisional football game, but a late field goal will win it for the Jaguars and send the Titans home for the playoffs, 17-14.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They take care of the ball. That got away from them last week. As always, they need to hit some vertical routes early to open up the running game. Also, the defense needs to stuff Henry and make quarterback Marcus Mariota pass.
The Titans will win if:They get some takeaways. Also, after losing three in a row, they need some early success to get the crowd believing.
As Frangie sees it: It's going to be a cold-weather ground war. The Jags must be tougher in the trenches, pass a little early and then grind it out. I think Jags have the better team and will win.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if:They can run effectively in a late-season cold weather game. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the NFL's best – and over the last two years his defense has been the NFL's best against the run. Running the ball will allow the Jaguars' offense manageable third downs and keep a blitzing Titans defense off balance – also slowing down some quality pass rushers in defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, end Brian Orakpo, and end Derrick Morgan. The Jaguars were able to find little traction with their running game last week against the 49ers and it will be a challenge again this week.
The Titans will win if: They can run effectively with Henry. Murray left last week's game against the Rams with a knee injury and will be a question mark to play. The Titans have a very good offensive line with two top-tier tackles in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. Delanie Walker has been one of the NFL's best tight ends over the last four years and a favorite target of Mariota's. If the Titans' run game is rolling it is a challenge for linebackers and safeties to cover a tight end like Walker.
As Lageman sees it:The Jaguars' defense should be champing at the bit to get back on the grass and face anyone after last week's game against the 49ers. Mariota has been off the mark this season and a hungry Jags defense will get back to form leading into the playoffs. Many analysts may wonder if the Jaguars will be motivated to play a game that doesn't change their playoff fortunes. Eliminating a division rival from the playoffs and putting an exclamation point on a division title is all the motivation that should be needed.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:They play with passion and match the intensity Tennessee will bring in a must-win game for the Titans. That's easier said than done. The motivation for the Jags must be to knock the Titans from the playoffs and get the swagger back after an ugly loss in San Francisco.
The Titans will win if: They own the line of scrimmage. They want to run, of course – and in the fourth quarter of games, that comes in handy as Tennessee can wear teams down. They also must protect Mariota from a defense that leads the NFL in sacks. No doubt, the Titans will make the Jaguars' passing game win the day; the trenches are key on both sides.
As Martineau sees it:This is a tough call in a game that pits one team that is better and more talented (Jaguars) against one team that is desperate to make the playoffs and avoid the embarrassment of losing four consecutive games to end the season (Titans). I think the Jaguars are the better team and their pride will show in Nashville as the Jaguars crush the Titans' playoff hopes once again.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if:Their motivation is real. Jaguars players clearly disliked like Casey's comments this week doubting the Jaguars were true AFC South Champions. It's one thing to be annoyed on Wednesday. The Jaguars must play motivated Sunday in a game that's about pride rather than playoff ramifications.
The Titans will win if:They can run effectively and protect Mariota. The Jaguars didn't disrupt the Titans' offense enough in a Week 2 loss to Tennessee in Jacksonville. If the Titans run effectively and Mariota has time to throw, this will be a long day for the Jaguars.
As Oehser sees it:Circumstances make this tricky for the Jaguars. They have been the better team in the second half of the season, but a team needing to win to make the postseason typically has a huge advantage over a team with playoff seeding secured. The guess here is the Titans win Sunday and the Jaguars win next week on Wild Card Weekend.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can stop the Titans' run game. In their last five meetings, the Titans have averaged 201 yards per game rushing in three victories – and 81 yards per game in two losses. You needn't dig too deep to understand everything the Titans do is built off their run-the-ball, "exotic-smash-mouth" mindset. Stop the run – which could be much easier this week with Murray ailing – and you win the game.
The Titans will win if: They can run the ball with Henry. The Titans' hammer had 61 fourth-quarter yards in Week 2, carrying Jaguars through the hole and down the field on most of those runs. Henry will be critical to Tennessee's ability to set up play action for Mariota and Walker.
As Sexton sees it: The Jaguars should play to claim the AFC South. They already have the title, but the Titans talked this week about being the best team in the division with a sweep of the Jags and a 5-1 record against the South. Also, a Titans victory would send them to Jacksonville for Wild Card Weekend with some swagger. Beat them, claim the South and send them home for January for the ninth consecutive season.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:They keep the starters in the game – and if they don't turn the ball over three times in negative territory. That happened last week; no matter who you play, if you spot them 21 points off three turnovers, it's usually a loss. Hang on to the football.
The Titans will win if: They run like they did in Week 2. Murray was banged up last week, but Henry is still a handful and Mariota is still a threat to burn you. Don't let that run game get rolling.
As Shadrick sees it:This is another tough game for the Jags. It's a 4:25 ET kick on New Year's Eve. The Titans need to win the game. The Jaguars would love a little momentum, but probably need to balance that with the health of the team heading into the Wild Card Weekend. If the Titans win, get ready to welcome them to EverBank Field next weekend in the postseason.