In a can’t-miss game in the Sunday NFL slate’s early half, the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans. Pending the Indianapolis Colts’ result at the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, it’s an opportunity for the Jags to open a commanding lead in the AFC South in Week 3. The Colts and Titans are 1-1 after two games. Jacksonville defeated both New England and the New York Giants. Victory in their first divisional matchup not only maintains an undefeated record, it could open a two-game lead on the field. There’s no better feeling than playing from ahead.
Get off to a winning start with CharliesSports’ Football Picks then keep going!
Subscribe now and benefit through Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.
After a decent run from 2004-07 under Jack Del Rio culminated in an 11-5 season, a wildcard win and a second-round loss to the eventual AFC champion Patriots, the Jags sank into mediocrity. From 2008-16, the North Florida franchise managed just one .500 season without a single winning campaign. Del Rio kept them competitive for another three years before a 3-8 start in 2011 spelled the end. Mel Tucker finished the season. Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley guided the team deep into the depths over five seasons. Bradley just once managed to match del Rio’s worst full season by winning five games in 2015. After going 2-12 in 2016, he was finally put out of the fans’ misery.
Doug Marrone took over for the final two games, won one, then stunned the league by winning the division last season. He didn’t stop there. The Jags beat the Bills 10-3 in the wildcard game then the Steelers, 45-42, proving he could grind out a result or shoot it out with the best. Jacksonville pushed the Pats to the brink in the AFC Championship before coming out second-best.
Save for two disastrous seasons under Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee were competitive if not spectacular over the past decade. The team’s fortunes rest on quarterback Marcus Mariota’s arm and legs. When he was injured, the Titans struggled. With the Oregon standout in the pique of health last season, they made a deep playoff run, also falling victim to Tom Brady and New England.
Coach Mike Mularkey returns to Jacksonville, where he posted a 2-14 record in his lone season. His success in Nashville suggested that number belonged to management. GM Gene Smith was sent packing along with Mularkey in 2012. Marrone’s subsequent success arrived after David Caldwell had four seasons to build a solid foundation. The new Jaguars are a different beast but Mularkey’s pride remains on the line for this one.
The Titans enter on a two-game winning streak against Jacksonville. They’ve won six of the last nine. That said, the Jags hold the edge in virtually every major category on both sides of the ball in 2018. They’re putting up more points, gaining more yards, surrendering fewer, spending more time on offence, capitalising more often in the red zone. That’s a lot to overcome, especially on the road.
The Jags are 2-0 against the spread in the early doors, while the Titans are 1-1. On the other hand, Tennessee’s 5-0 ATS in their last five AFC South matchups and 5-1 ATS after conceding more than 350 yards in total offence. They yielded 458 to the Texans last week even though they squeaked out a three-point win. They’ve also done the under in their previous four division games. Jacksonville’s 4-0 ATS the spread after winning, 5-1 after winning ATS.
Head-to-head, the home team’s 5-1 ATS in the last seven, with one push. Tennessee covered the spread only once in their last seven visits to TIAA Bank Field. The favourite won five ATS over the same number of games. Jacksonville give away 9.5 at the writing. As a rule, I’m wary about following trends. Marrone and the Jags won’t go 16-0 this season. They’ll hit a road bump at some point. It’s just too soon, however. At home, with momentum on their side, I’ve got to stick with the cats.
Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.