The Jaguars head to Nashville this week to take on their arch-rivals. The Titans have beaten the Jaguars in 30 of their 51 all-time meetings. Recent history hasn't been kind to the Jaguars when facing the Titans, especially in Tennessee, where the Jaguars have lost six straight contests. Unsurprisingly, the Titans, who made it all the way to the AFC title game in 2019, are heavy home favorites (-9) against the Jaguars.
But these young Jaguars have already defied the odds once this season, taking down the Colts in a come from behind victory in week one. What will it take to steal a win from the Titans in week two?
I thought you'd never ask.
A Fast Start
The Jaguars have been notoriously slow starters over the past two seasons under Doug Marrone. Heck, even last week, they were just a couple of yards away from going down 14-0 to the Colts in the first quarter. That's unlikely to work against the Titans. Why? Once the Titans take a double-digit lead, they're tough to handle. On offense, they attempt to pound teams into submission with their battering ram Derrick Henry. On defense, its head coach Mike Vrabel's time to shine. He can unleash the hounds and blitz freely when he knows his opponent has to pass the ball. The Jaguars need to hold serve early on, or even take a lead of their own if they hope to take down the Titans.
The Jaguars must be sound tacklers on Sunday. Early in their victory over Indianapolis, the Big Cats struggled to wrap up and bring ball carriers to the ground. The Jaguars' defense must be prepared to take down Derrick Henry in all four quarters. The 6'3'', 238-pound behemoth carried the ball 31 times last week. In week three of the 2019 season, when the Jaguars embarrassed their nemesis from Nashville on Thursday Night Football, the defense held Henry to just 44 yards rushing. The Jags missed 12 tackles in that game, but their defenders swarmed to the ball play in and play out, not allowing Henry to build up a head of steam. Fast forward to week 12 of 2019 in Tennessee, the Jaguars missed 15 tackles and failed to gang up on Henry. The Titans routed the Jaguars as Henry carried the ball 19 times for 159 yards and two scores. If the Jaguars want to win, they must slow down Henry and bring down ball carriers when the opportunity presents itself.
The Jaguars need to wear down the Titans' defense and keep Derrick Henry off the field as much as possible. Last week, the Jaguars' offense didn't possess the ball enough — the Colts outpaced the Jaguars 33 to 26 in time of possession. If the Jaguars' defense can't get off the field quicker in week two, it will be very difficult to find success slowing down the Titans' smash-mouth offense in the fourth quarter. Derrick Henry and company tend to wear teams down throughout games, especially if they're able to run, run, and run some more. Of course, as long as the Jaguars' offense is putting up points, it may not matter how long the Titans possess the ball. But typically, in this matchup, the Jaguars will want to hold on to the ball for long stretches on offense and limit the sustained drives for the Titans.
It's an obvious point to make. But if the Jaguars continue to protect the football when they're on offense, success is likely to follow. The Jags won the turnover battle 2-0 in week one. The Titans also had a clean sheet from a turnover perspective last week and forced one of their own. It's no surprise that these two teams who played clean football on offense earned victories last week. Whichever squad takes better care of the ball this Sunday will likely enter week three with a 2-0 record and an early lead in the AFC South.
Of course, if Gardner throws another near perfect game, all of this will be moot and the Jaguars will be riding high heading into a week three Thursday Night Football showdown with the Dolphins.
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