Pillowfight! The Titans, coming off by far their best performance of the year, take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on Sunday. The Jaguars lost last week to the Houston Texans, 43-37 in overtime, to fall to 1-9 on the season. Jacksonville took a 34-20 lead early in the fourth quarter on a long touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Justin Blackmon, blew that lead, managed to tie the game at 37 in overtime after the Texans kicked a field goal on the first possession, then gave up the game-winning score.
After the jump, what I saw from the Jaguars last week and the entirely too many for not being a fan other of their games I've seen.
1. I was actually kind of looking forward to writing about Blaine Gabbert and trying to give a realistic perspective on him, but he got hurt against the Texans and is on injured reserve. Chad Henne came in for him last week and put up big numbers, completing 16 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Of those yards, 211 of them came on three big pass plays that were mostly run after catch. Henne's other 30 attempts produced 143 yards. That includes going 3-15 in the fourth quarter and overtime following Blackmon's big TD catch, and that statline is not unflattering to Henne's actual performance. He had multiple passes tipped at the line. He missed on a corner route. He missed on a quick out. He missed on a slant. He missed on shallow crosses, easy throws over the middle. He was, frankly, brutal. That kind of inconsistency has been a prominent part of Henne's career and why he is where he is. He's willing to throw balls where his receiver has to win and he's much more willing to throw over the middle than Gabbert was. He wasn't intercepted last week, but three passes very easily could have been intercepted.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew is out. Rashad Jennings is out of favor as the primary ballcarrier. Jalen Parmele is the new feature back. He's Just A Guy, able to run for yards if there's a big hole. That rarely happens, and the Jaguars have been really, really bad on the ground four of the past five games.
3. Marcedes Lewis still the tight end. He's still tall. He had a jump ball touchdown catch from Henne last week. Expect to see some of that, as he's a guy who benefits from Henne's willingness to throw up 50-50 balls like that.
4. Wide receiver is interesting. The Jaguars are improved at the position compared to where they were last season, even with big free agent acqusition Laurent Robinson going to injured reserve after concussions. First-round pick Justin Blackmon had been pretty terrible for most of the year, but exploded for 236 yards on 7 catches last week. He got open, which he'd massively struggled to do, and run after the catch after looking like he couldn't separate in short areas or deep early in the season. He also ran more things than just the 8-yard outs he ran for most of the season. Expect the Jaguars to line him up in the slot and try to work him against Coty Sensabaugh. If the Titans really wanted to, they could play Tommie Campbell outside and move Alterraun Verner to the slot in nickel this year. The other wide receiver is Cecil Shorts, a second-year player who's having a really nice season. He broke a couple tackles for a long touchdown last week. With Robinson out, there's not really a third credible wideout.
5. Against a team with a pass rush, I'd say the Jaguars' offensive line stinks. Well, left tackle Eugene Monroe is pretty good, though he did get beat last week. Left guard Mike Brewster is an undrafted rookie I didn't think had an NFL career aside from maybe as a backup center. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield is much better than Guy Whimper but still not that good.
6. The Jaguars are 32nd in the NFL in defensive Adjusted Sack Rate. The re-signed Jeremy Mincey has struggled to be consistently productive, just like last year. Second-round rookie Andre Branch has been losing playing time due to ineffectiveness. Austen Lane is the starter at defensive end, and he's semi-useful. Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley really flashed at times as the Jaguars did a good job of limiting Arian Foster's productivity last week.
7. The Jaguars' best linebacker, Daryl Smith, has been out all season and is still out, though he could be back for the Week 17 game in Nashville. Paul Posluszny isn't bad at MLB. Russell Allen is better than the career-special teams player I though he'd be as a rookie, but he's still not great. The other linebackers are worse.
8. Cornerback Derek Cox is having a nice season. Rashean Mathis was out last week. Aaron Ross started in his stead. Aaron Ross was targeted repeatedly. Matt Schaub completed 78% of his passes. That is not a coincidence. Andre Johnson especially beat him like a drum over and over again. Mathis is questionable for this week's game. If he's out, there will be plays available in the secondary.
9. Dawan Landry is a pretty good strong safety who can be exploited if he has to play like a free safety. Dwight Lowery is a very useful, if not great, free safety who's capable of playing things like single-high coverage. Lowery was out last week. Chris Prosinski started in his place. Chris Prosinski is bad at tackling, takes terrible angles, and generally does all sorts of things you don't want a free safety to do. If Mathis is out, the Jaguars should help Ross out with a safety over the top. Prosinski was manifestly unable to do that last week against the Texans. Lowery can do that kind of thing a lot better. Like Mathis, Lowery is questionable.
The Jaguars are a pretty bad team. If the Titans play like they're capable of, they can win this game by multiple scores. The Titans, though, have played one game like they're theoretically capable of, the pre-bye win against Miami. Before that game, the Titans had played at basically the exact same level as the Jaguars, only they'd had better luck in close games. Judging by their overall bodies of work, the line of TEN -3.5 on the road feels a little bit favorable to the Titans. Watching the Jaguars, though, that line feels pretty good. I should also note the Jaguars have especially struggled at home, losing every game on the banks of the St. Johns River by at least 17 points. I'm not sure what's really going on there, if anything, but the sample size is big enough I won't completely ignore it.
Anyway, this is a game the Titans absolutely can win, probably should win, and absolutely have to win if they're going to make an improbable playoff push.