JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2018 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Titansonline.com senior writer and editor Jim Wyatt on the Titans' matchup with the Jaguars at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
Question: The Titans (6-6) turned in what may have been a season-saving victory Sunday, rallying for a 26-22 victory over the New York Jets. Where does that leave them as Thursday approaches?
Answer: It was a game certainly the Titans had to win. Because they lost games to AFC opponents early in the season, they're not in great shape on tiebreakers for the wild card. They're in a stretch now where they need to win – and I think the feeling is they have to win out. The Titans came back and showed some resilience to beat the Jets. It's a challenge any time you have a short week, but the Titans definitely head into [Thursday's game against the Jaguars] with a little momentum and a little energy and feeling like they're kind of back in it after losing back-to-back games to division opponents.
Q: The Titans are a little bit of an odd team. They have looked like one of the better teams in the AFC at times, beating the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots in back-to-back weeks, yet they're 6-6 and need much to go right to make the postseason. What happened?
A: They have been inconsistent all season. They have had games where they have looked really, really good – and unfortunately, they followed those games up with performances that were not close enough to being good enough to win. They won three in a row early, then they went to Buffalo and lost. They had a performance against the [Baltimore] Ravens where [Titans quarterback] Marcus Mariota got sacked 11 times and they got shutout. Then they beat the Patriots and Cowboys – two of the hotter teams in the league – back to back and really played well against the [Los Angeles] Chargers before that. Then, they went to Indianapolis and Houston and lost and didn't look great in those efforts. It has been a tough team to figure out. The theme going into the game against the Jets was, "Don't beat the Titans." The Titans feel like if they don't make mistakes and play the way they think they can play that they can win games. They beat the Titans for a long stretch on Sunday, then they found a way to win late.
Q: Offensively, how is Mariota playing – and where is this offense through three quarters of the season?
A: I think he has been good. He has been up and down like some other guys, but I think he's making strides. His completion percentage is way up and he's coming off a game in which he turned in the 12th comeback victory of his career – and the eighth in the past two seasons. The issue with him is he has been getting sacked too many times. Protection has not been great; he has been sacked 32 times in 11 games. He has had to count on some young receivers who are making strides, but it's fair to say they have been a little inconsistent themselves. He is working through some things around him. The biggest thing with him is being able to stay healthy. He had to deal with an [elbow] injury early in the season. He had to leave the game against the Colts early and didn't return. He just has to stay on the field to help his team win.
Q. You mentioned the Titans have allowed Mariota to be sacked 32 times. Has the issue on the offensive line been injuries? Has the unit been disappointing?
A: I just think the group has not really lived up to expectations and has just not really played up to its potential. They had to work through injuries early on and had to rotate guys in and out of the lineup. They finally got that settled down and have had the starting five in there for the last several games. But they've allowed too many sacks and the run-blocking has not been good. As a group, they have not played up to expectations. They juggled things last week. They brought Corey Levin in and moved Ben Jones from starting center to guard, putting Levin in at center. It remains to be seen what happens moving forward, but they're at least open to trying different things to try to figure this thing out.
Q: When the Titans play the Jaguars lately, they seem to be a really good defensive team. Are they as good defensively as they look?
A: The team has been good defensively this season except for a couple of games. The games against Houston and Indianapolis back-to-back were kind of a departure from the way they had been playing; they had been a solid group. Against Jacksonville, I just think these two teams know each other so well that it's tough to surprise the other team and tough to trick them; it pretty much comes down to a physical battle. I expect to see that again on Thursday night.
Q: The Titans clearly remain in the playoff chase. What must they do to make the postseason?
A: I think there is potential for this team to make the playoffs, but we've talked about the inconsistencies that this team has had. With four games to go, the Titans are in a position where they may need to win all four games to get in the playoffs. They're going to have to do something they have not done all season – and that's put together five wins in a row and to play consistently week-in and week-out. The focus obviously is on Jacksonville, because you can't do anything if you don't win this game on Thursday night. But this team is going to have to be more consistent on offense and more consistent on defense. They're going to have to prove they can rise to the occasion for a whole month instead of a couple of games at a stretch.