Tennessee Titans vs Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans vs Jacksonville Jaguars pick: Preview, prediction, statistics to know for ‘Thursday Night Football’

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Are you ready for some AFC South football? We hope so. Because that’s what you’re getting on Thursday night.

The seemingly annual Thursday Night clash between the Titans and Jaguars is here, and it is probably not going to be spectacular, given the recent history of what games between these two teams has looked like. But what this game could be, though, is important.

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The Titans are 6-6 and hanging on the edges of the AFC playoff race. If they manage to get a badly-needed win this week, it could propel them back into the picture — especially when you consider what their upcoming schedule looks like. The Jags are 4-8 and almost surely out of the playoffs, but this is the first of four opportunities for them to spoil the hopes of playoff wannabes down the stretch.

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What should you be looking out for tonight (8:20 p.m., NFL Network)? We’re glad you asked.

(Stream Thursday’s TitansJaguars game and all of Sunday’s games on fuboTV, try it for free, and stream the CBS games on CBS All Access.)

When the Titans have the ball

The Titans have perhaps the NFL’s most inconsistent offense.

Just since their bye week, the Titans have scored 28 points against the Cowboysand 34 against the Patriots in back-to-back wins, followed it up with 10 points against the Colts and 17 against the Texans in back-to-back losses, and then hung 26 on the Jets in another win last week. They’ve been held to 10 points or fewer three times. They have four games with zero turnovers and four games with multiple turnovers. They’ve had three games with less than 100 rushing yards and three games with 150 or more.

Marcus Mariota has three games with a passer rating of 119 or better and three games with a passer rating of 62 or worse. Corey Davis had two catches for 34 yards in Week 4, exploded for 9 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown in Week 4, and then combined for 8 catches for 83 yards over the next three games combined. Dion Lewis emerged as the team’s lead back with an average of more than 21 touches a game and 5.4 yards per touch during Weeks 7-10, but has averaged just 11 touches per game and 3.2 yards per touch in three games since.

There is seemingly no way to tell which particular version of the Titans’ offense we will see in any given game, as their performance has little carryover from one week to the next. Again, this is a team that scored 9 points against the Jags back in Week 3 and then followed it with 26 against the Eagles. They scored 34 against the Patriots and then 10 against the Colts. There is no rhyme or reason about anything with these guys. MORE NFL

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That said, they have pretty consistently had trouble moving the ball against the Jaguars defense since the start of last year … but they’ve won all three games against them anyway, largely because the Jaguars’ offense can’t seem to move the ball against the Titans (or anyone else), either, and has consistently gifted Tennessee short fields to work with. In the first game these two teams played last year, for example, the Titans started five of their 12 drives in Jaguars territory, and those drives accounted for 24 of their 37 points. In the other two games against these Jags, the Titans totaled 24 points — scoring one touchdown and six field goals on 24 drives.

This year’s version of Jacksonville’s defense is not quite as dominant as last year’s, but we saw just last week how they are still capable of locking down even the best of opposing offenses. When their front four is getting pressure they are extremely tough to beat, and if you can’t control the line of scrimmage in the run game you are going to end up in poor down-and-distance situations, allowing those guys to pin their ears back and come after the cornerback, which allows Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and company to be even more aggressive in taking away passing lanes on the outside.

Tennessee’s offensive line, much like the rest of the team, has been inconsistent this season, and there is no telling which version of that unit will show up. If Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, and company can keep the pass rush at bay, maybe Mariota can sit in the pocket and wait for one of his guys to spring open. If not, it could be a long night, full of more field goals.

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