For the better part of a decade, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans have been synonymous with the bottom half of the AFC South standings. But while their current records don’t scream postseason, both are still in contention for the division ahead of “Thursday Night Football” at EverBank Field.
The Indianapolis Colts have dealt with quarterback Andrew Luck’s injuries all season and the Houston Texans picked up just their fourth victory of season on Monday, making the division the only one in the NFL where every team is below .500.
Neither team has yet to win a division game thus far, but the 3-6 Jaguars and 2-7 Titans can still ascend the standings over the next seven games. Jacksonville, who enters the game as a three-point home favorite, does have a slight advantage as they sit only one game back of Indianapolis and Houston while Tennessee is two games behind.
Of course, Baltimore fans rightfully believe the Jaguars shouldn’t have one of those victories. Jacksonville proved victorious 22-20 in Week 10 after Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was called for a facemask penalty committed against quarterback Blake Bortles on what would have been the final play from scrimmage.
The penalty allowed Jacksonville one more play and for kicker Jason Myers to boot a 53-yard field goal for the win. However the NFL admitted Monday that referees missed a false start prior to Dumervil’s penalty and that Baltimore should have prevailed. If called correctly, a 10-second run-off of the game clock would’ve put Jacksonville in the same hole as Tennessee.
Bortles, whose shown signs of improvement in his second season with 19 total touchdowns through nine games compared to just 11 during his rookie campaign, finished with 188 passing yards and two scores to one interception.
His top receivers, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, combined for 10 receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and they’re now tied for fourth in the NFL with seven receiving touchdowns on the year. Robinson, in particular, has shown great flair for the long ball, leading the league with 17 receptions of 20 or more yards. Hurns also extended his franchise record to seven straight games with a touchdown reception.
The Titans, on the other hand, slipped to 1-1 under interim head coach Mike Mularkey following Sunday’s 27-10 beat down at the hands of undefeated Carolina. Tennessee suffered two turnovers, went 5-for-12 on third down and could muster only 64 rushing yards against one of the league’s top defenses.
Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota went 16-for-24 for 185 yards and one interception, and for just the second game all year failed to complete a touchdown pass. But Mariota’s largely played well and even excelled at times despite the lack of a running game behind him.
Veteran running back Dexter McCluster scored the Titans only touchdown against the Panthers, and generated only 25 yards off three carries, while Mariota contributed another 24 yards on the ground. Tennessee’s now No. 24 in the NFL with 97.4 rushing yards per game, despite mixing things up with four different running backs this season. The bulk of the carries have gone to second-year rusher Antonio Andrews, who’s gained 298 yards and two scores on 84 attempts.
Tennessee’s offense and its No. 3 pass defense both took a serious blows on Monday. Third-leading receiver Justin Hunter reportedly underwent surgery to repair a fractured ankle and cornerback Jason McCourty will have surgery for the second time to repair a groin injury, putting both on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Beside tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Kendall Wright, Hunter’s pulled down 22 receptions for 264 yards and one touchdown this season. The seven-year veteran McCourty has appeared in only four games this season due to the injury and hasn’t played since Week 8’s loss to Houston.
Still, the Titans secondary could cause problems for Bortles. Ranking third overall against the pass, Tennessee’s defensive backfield is led by cornerback Coty Sensabaugh’s five passes defensed and two interceptions, and safeties Da’Norris Searcy and Michael Griffin back him up with five combined passes defensed and two more picks.
Betting Odds: Jacksonville -3
Over/Under: 43 points
Prediction: Tennessee over Jacksonville, 20-17