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Thursday Night Football Preview: Jaguars at Titans

TNF Jags at Titans

This week is more notable than others as this slate of games represents the halfway mark to the season. While some teams are enjoying their early returns there are others that are singing the blues. What better setting for singing the blues than the music city and that is where this Thursday’s matchup will take place.

Thursday Night Football Preview

Week 8: Jaguars @ the Titans -3.5

[the_ad id=”63198″]This week is more notable than others as this slate of games represents the halfway mark to the season. While some teams are enjoying their early returns there are others that are singing the blues. What better setting for singing the blues than the music city and that is where this Thursday’s matchup will take place. It will be an AFC South matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans that will have one team maintaining a punchers chance in the division and the other continuing to sink further into NFL obscurity. The Titans lead the all time series against the Jaguars (24-19) and are the home town favorite with a three and half point spread and an over under of forty four and a half.

The Jaguars were considered a preseason darling whom folks thought would make major strides this season. After the first seven weeks they are tied for the lowest points scored in the AFC and sit at 2-4. Ironically enough it is the AFC south leading Houston Texans whom they are tied with in points. That may sound like bad luck but regardless they will look to close out their lackluster first half of the season on a high note behind the arm of quarterback Blake Bortles.

There is no question that Bortles was the one of the driving forces behind the Jaguars being a sexy pick this season and that was in large part due to his 35 touchdown passes in 2015. Perhaps all those touchdown passes turned out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors as Bortles is 10-25 all time as the Jaguars starting signal caller. His stats so far this year is comparable to his 2015 numbers except for touchdowns. He currently has nine touchdown passes this season while in 2015 he had ten during the month of October. Bortles will look to improve on last weeks outing against the Raiders. In what was expected to be a big statistical game for Bortles he ended up just shy of 250 yards passing with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Allen RobinsonBortles is not the only Jaguar who is playing below exceptions as Allen Robinson has been one of the bigger disappointments in the NFL. In the first two months of 2015, Robinson had 586 yards receiving and headed into his final game of October this season he sits at just 296 yards. He has been determined this week to put up a better effort on the road as his two starts away from Jacksonville this season have resulted in just six receptions for 103 yards and no scores. As Robinson tries to find his way Bortles has been spreading the ball around. The Jaguars have five players with 25 or more targets and seven players with a hundred or more yards receiving.

Allen Hurns leads the way with 345 yards receiving and has had seventeen targets since the bye week. Any offensive production that has come out of Jacksonville has been through the air and not on the ground as the Jaguars are 31st in the league in rushing. In last weeks loss to the Raiders, Bortles and Chris Ivory had five carries each which were the most of any Jaguar. They are averaging 76.7 yards rushing a game while their opponents are averaging 109.8. Last weeks ejected Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars defense will be looking to improve as they currently rank 29th against the pass and 19th against the run.

The Tennessee Titans will be coming off of a tough 34-26 loss at home against the Indianapolis Colts but their play has been better. Over the last three weeks, the Titans have scored twenty five points or more. This scoring output is a direct result of DeMarco Murray but also the improving Marcus Mariota. Over the last three weeks, Mariota has thrown for eight touchdowns with just one interception and 138 yards rushing. Those rushing yards are almost double what he was able to do over the first four weeks. The anomaly with the Titans passing game is if or when one of these wide receivers will emerge and be Mariota’s go to guy. The current leader in Titans receptions is DeMarco Murray with just twenty seven.

Behind Murray in receptions is Delanie Walker whom is now dealing with a bruised chest after what is being called an unnecessary hit from the Colts Josh McNary. Walker’s status for this Thursday is still undetermined, but if he can’t go that may limit Mariota from having another solid performance. Walker has had three games of five receptions or more while receivers like Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright, Rishard Matthews, and Andre Johnson have combined for just two games of five or more receptions. Someone in that mix will eventually need to step up but I don’t think we see that this week. The Titans may not have a major benefactor with their 20th ranked passing offense but there is one undeniable force in their 2nd ranked rushing attack.

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DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray has made his brief stint in Philadelphia a distant memory as he sits second in the league in rushing yards. Murray is third in the league with thirty three first downs behind Ezekiel Elliot and David Johnson. With three games of a hundred yards or more of rushing and five games of five or more targets in the passing game, there is doubt that the Titans will continue to utilize Murray in any way that they can. Over the last two weeks, the Jaguars have allowed three touchdowns to opposing teams lead backs so look for Murray to try and take advantage of that.

The Jaguars have been struggling in their rushing game so the name of the game for players like the Titans Brian Orakpo will be to generate a strong pass rush on Bortles. Orakpo came up empty on sacks last week but before that have recorded a sack or more in five straight weeks. Both of these teams are 2-3 over their last five games and are in need of a win. One of the biggest keys to this game is the Jaguars offense. Their defense is not strong enough to handle the offenses inability to reach the end zone. On the other sideline, The Titans need for Delanie Walker is probably more essential than folks realize. The Jaguars have been tough against the tight end but just to have Walker as a safety valve is helpful for Mariota. I think that if the Jaguars can’t get going then DeMarco Murray will help the Titans take over the time of possession and ultimately the game. If you’re looking to break the streak of lackluster primetime games you may end up disappointed but I think the Titans will take this game in a close matchup. I think this a game that the gambling man may want to stay away from as the spread is right where it should be.

My Prediction: Titans 23 Jaguars 20

Fantasy Thoughts & Tips

[the_ad id=”58837″]For Fantasy Football, this could be a quiet kickoff to your week. From a fantasy standpoint, Both of these teams haven’t really victimized too bad by any one position. DeMarco Murray is the most reliable play of all as he presents a threat through both the ground and the air. I wouldn’t bank on a hundred yard rushing performance for Murray though as the Jaguars haven’t given up a hundred yards to a lead back since Melvin Gordon in week 2. I like Murray to reach the end zone and to get around 60-75 yards on the ground. Given my rushing yard projection and his average of 4.9 passing targets a game, it should make a hundred all purpose yards more than doable. The last time these two teams played in Tennessee we saw Mariota dashing through the Jaguars defense for an 87 yard score.

While I do not believe we will see that this week I do like Mariota to continue his upward trend in rushing yards. With his ability to run the ball it should diminish the likelihood of him failing to hit that 275 passing yard mark. I like him to continue his play over the last few weeks and considering the bye week apocalypse that is upon us I think you could do much worse with a fill in. In most cases, I would say that Delanie Walker is the only pass catcher you would play for the Titans but given his chest injury and the Jaguars giving up the third fewest points to tight ends I would proceed with caution on starting him.

Allen HurnsThe Jaguars are a fantasy football mystery and with Bortles sitting at just nine touchdowns and nine interceptions I would suggest that he is dicey start to begin your week. Allen Robinson is an unfortunate circumstance as he isn’t an easy player to sit and given the bye weeks you may have to play him. He will undoubtedly improve upon his nine yard performance from last week and has seemed determined as ever in practice this week. Talented players are hard to keep down and eventually he will reward his owners.

Allen Hurns deserves some consideration this week in PPR formats as he has had 17 targets over the past two games. A sneaky play this week could be Julius Thomas as the Titans have given up the tenth most fantasy points to tight ends. That same Titans defense has allowed the 11th fewest points to opposing running backs and considering the Jaguars ineffectiveness with the run game I would look for better options than Ivory or Yeldon.

The Titans defense may be worth a look in this one as Blake Bortles continues to try to find his way. The Titans had three sacks as a team last week and could make life difficult for Jaguar fans if they can hurry an already struggling Bortles.

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