We’ve all heard the football cliché…..”Throw out the record books when these two rivals play.” But in the case of the Tennessee Titans (1-1) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0), this is no cliché at all.
In fact, these bitter rivals seem to take pride in sticking it to the other when it stings the most…regardless of their records.
And it’s been going on for 20 years.
In the Titans’ inaugural 1999 season in Nashville, the Jaguars were the unquestioned kings of the AFC. Jacksonville had talent and depth at every position and cruised to the number one seed with a 14-2 record.
Their only two losses came at the hands of the underdog Titans who were just 24-24 the previous three seasons.
The teams met for a third time in the AFC Championship game, and no one gave the Titans a chance to pull off three straight in the series. Especially after Jacksonville’s 62-7 beat down of the Miami Dolphins the previous week.
Tennessee erased a 14-10 halftime deficit with a 23-0 second half shutout, pulling off the trifecta and shocking the Alltel Stadium crowd….if not the entire nation.
The rivalry laid dormant for over a decade when the Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts dominated the newly realigned AFC South, but it was rekindled in the fashion that started it in 2012.
The Jaguars were an abomination that season, clearly the worst team in the league. The Titans were fighting to stay mathematically alive in the playoff race when the two squared off on November 25, 2012.
Losers of seven straight and winless at home, the 1-9 Jags shocked the favored Titans with an improbable 24-19 win, which essentially put the nail in Tennessee’s playoff coffin. The Titans bottomed out to close the season.
And as you can expect, Jacksonville went on to lose their final five games that year and finished 2-14.
In 2016 the Titans found new life behind second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota and newly acquired running back DeMarco Murray after years of losing. Tennessee entered week 16 of that season with a clear goal in sight…win their last two games and they are AFC South champions.
On a Christmas Eve to forget for the people of Nashville, the 2-12 Jaguars…with nothing to play for…dominated Tennessee 38-17, knocking the team out of the playoffs and Mariota out for months with a fractured fibula.
Last year the Jaguars entered week 2 of the season riding high with confidence after their 10 sack performance in Houston in the season opener. The Titans were 0-1 after a tough opening loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Favored to cruise to 2-0, the Jaguars were bludgeoned by the underdog Titans 37-16 in a game in which they were overwhelmed and manhandled by Tennessee’s physical smash mouth approach.
When the regular season finale rolled around, the Titans were once again needing a victory to secure a wild-card spot…while Jacksonville turned things around and bullied their way to the AFC South title.
With their playoff seed locked in, and with nothing to gain, Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone elected to play his starters in the contest…perhaps smelling blood after the Titans limped into the game losers of three straight to inferior opponents.
And in lock-step with the rivalry’s history, the heavily favored Jaguars went into Nissan Stadium and were punched in the mouth once again by the equally physical Titans….who squeaked out a tough-fought 15-10 victory to secure a playoff berth.
Fast forward to today, and true to form, the Jaguars are heavily favored to dismantle and destroy a banged-up Titans team riddled with injuries this Sunday.
But beware before you place that bet on the Jags….strange things happen in this wild and unpredictable rivalry.