Are the Titans ever going to win a game at home? Sunday's game against Jacksonville looks like their last, best, shot at it, and it seems like the team's last shot at a win in general this season. Not much has changed since these two teams squared off two weeks ago, so this post will have somewhat of a different format than usual.
From last game:
Reasons For Confidence: Jaguars' Offensive Line, Turnovers
Jaguars' Offensive Line: Another year, another Jaguars' offensive line that is struggling to protect their quarterback. According to Football Outsiders, this unit is ranked 27th in pass protection. Meanwhile, the Titans' defensive line is ranked 2nd overall in the league as far as rushing the passer. With Brian Orakpo, Daquan Jones, and Jurrell Casey playing at a high level and with favorable matchups, Blake Bortles could be under a lot of pressure on Thursday Night. Don't forget about Dick Lebeau and Ray Horton's creative blitzes either, which should cause even more problems.
Turnovers: With the amount of pressure that Blake Bortles should be under on Thursday Night, I would not be surprised to see him give the defense a few. Bortles is fourth in the league in interceptions with 11. Similar to the week one matchup against Jameis Winston, if the defense simply sits back and does its job, Bortles should give them a few opportunities. With heavy pressure, it may be more than a few.
As far as the Jaguars' pass protection, this unit has moved up slightly in Football Outsiders' rankings. The last time these two teams faced off, the Titans' front seven had a strong outing. Brian Orakpo was extremely successful, so it would not be a surprise to see Jacksonville make some adjustments--chipping, double teaming, or leaving an extra man in. This could open some things up for some of the other players along the front seven. Blake Bortles is still turning the ball over at a very high rate. He has 13 interceptions on the year, behind only Peyton Manning, who has effectively been benched. Again, if the Titans can get some pressure on him, they can force him into handing a few over to the defense. One new reason for confidence is that one of the Jaguars' top receivers, Allen Hurns will be out on Sunday. This should make things even more difficult for Bortles.
Reasons For Concern: Jaguars' Wide Receivers, Conservative Approach, Jaguars' Run Defense
Jaguars' Wide Receivers: The Jaguars' top two receiving threats, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, are very talented. Hurns had a strong rookie reason, and has only gotten better this year. He's a little banged up, but indications are that he will be ready to go on Thursday. Meanwhile, Robinson has emerged as a top 10 wide receiver in the league. Very big and very physical, he may take over against the Titans' depleted secondary. He has been effective in just about every game, even two weeks ago against Darrelle Revis. He is the real deal. Julius Thomas will be a factor as well, especially considering that the Titans struggled so much against another tight end in Greg Olsen a few days ago.
Conservative Approach: Disclaimer-- personally, I am viewing this as a lost season from this point forward, so while it may not be the most effective approach on offense, if it keeps Marcus Mariota upright for the rest of the season, I will not complain. Now, that being said, with the Titans' lack of outside threats at wide receiver--Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are out--and the Titans keeping extra men at the line to protect Mariota, it will be very difficult to make plays through the air, like it was on Sunday in the second half against Carolina. There's a trade-off, and personally, I will take it to get through the season, but do not be surprised if the offense has trouble moving the ball through the air.
Jaguars' Run Defense: This makes things even tougher. If the Titans can't move the ball through the air, they will have to be able to run. Unfourtunately, the Jaguars' have one of the best run defenses in the league. On Sunday, outside of the Dexter McCluster touchdown run, the Titans' running backs collectively ran the ball 15 times for 15 yards. Against another top run defense, they could be have a similar, ineffective day on the ground.
A few things have changed here. First off, Kendall Wright is back in action after missing the last game. It should help somewhat as far as the receivers winning outside, but let's face it, they haven't won their matchups all year, and probably will not for the rest of the season. It is simply an atrocious unit--the worst in the league. The conservative approach will continue and it will keep Mariota upright, but don't expect much outside. Another change is Allen Hurns' absence, which was already mentioned. For both teams, expect the tight ends to be heavily involved. Julius Thomas had some success last game, and with Hurns out, he could be even more involved on Sunday. As far as the Jaguars' run defense, it does not really matter if the unit is at the top or bottom of the league; the Titans will not be able to run the ball. It is just cringe-worthy watching the Titans attempt to run the ball with their bottom-dwelling offensive line and less than mediocre running backs. Antonio Andrews is the best of the group, and he is the definition of average, only being capable of taking what is blocked for him. With this offensive line, there is nothing blocked for him. I would be surprised to see the Titans have much success on offense.
Prediction: I'm not sure how I can pick the Titans to win another game this season. This is the worst offense that I have ever seen in my years of watching professional football. If Jacksonville takes a conservative approach and limits turnovers, they should win this one. If they don't, it will probably come down to the late fourth quarter, and the Titans will trip over their own two feet in extremely predictable fashion. Titans lose, 20-10.