The Tennessee Titans (0-1) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) square off Sunday at EverBank Field in a divisional clash between old foes.
And while the two teams are polar opposites in terms of roster and expectations this season, they do share on thing in common this week…
Keys to a victory Sunday.
I know it sounds cliché, but first and foremost, both teams need to establish their run game this week…albeit for different reasons.
For Jacksonville, a heavy dose of rookie running back Leonard Fournette (who had 100 yards rushing and a td in his debut last week) is necessary to hide their quarterback and their now-anemic passing attack.
Blake Bortles’ struggles the last several months has been well documented, from throwing five interceptions on the first day of training camp this season to throwing just as many pick-sixes as he’s won games in this league.
And now Bortles will be without the services of his best receiver, Alan Robinson, who was lost for the year on his lone reception last week.
Houston has a qb crisis on its hands, so a shootout seemed unlikely as the game unfolded last week. To say that Tennessee doesn’t have that problem is an understatement.
The Titans have their franchise qb in Marcus Mariota, who has shown that he is capable of airing it out when the situation arises, but the Titans still need to establish a strong rushing attack to be successful against the Jags this week.
Tennessee is not looking to hide Mariota, but smash mouth football is their identity. Their passing game and offense as a whole flourishes when DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are rolling.
Not to mention that dropping back 40 plus times to pass will literally put Mariota in harm’s way…again. Jacksonville’s defensive line is one of the strengths of their team, evidenced by their ten sacks last week in Houston.
Their secondary is no sister of the poor, either. Jalen Ramsey and company could make life difficult if the Titans are constantly in obvious passing situations.
Coversely, both defenses should look to make their opponent one dimentional.
Oakland’s defense took held Murray and Henry to under 100 yards combined last week, and as a result Tennessee’s offense looked out of sync all afternoon.
While the Titans have made upgrades at receiver, last Sunday was the first time that Mariota had his full compliment of weapons at his disposal. Three of them are new to the offense and it showed at times throught the game.
Tennessee’s defense should see a qb that’s lacking confidence and a wounded animal in the Jaguars’ receivers. All of their attention should be focused on stopping Fournette, and if Bortles beats you, then it was just meant to be.
Look for both coaches to play it close to the vest offensively in this all-important divisional matchup, and that starts with establishing an effective run game.
The team that comes out on top in this category will be your winner this week.