Slumping Titans, surging Jaguars vie for AFC South title
TENNESSEE (7-9) at JACKSONVILLE (8-8)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Jaguars by 6.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Titans 8-7-1; Jaguars 8-8.
SERIES RECORD: Titans lead 34-22.
LAST MEETING: Jaguars beat Titans 36-22 on Dec. 11, 2022, in Nashville.
LAST WEEK: Titans lost to Cowboys 27-13; Jaguars beat Texans 31-3.
TITANS OFFENSE: OVERALL (30), RUSH (15), PASS (30), SCORING (28).
TITANS DEFENSE: OVERALL (25), RUSH (2), PASS (32), SCORING (15).
JAGUARS OFFENSE: OVERALL (7), RUSH (10), PASS (10), SCORING (11).
JAGUARS DEFENSE: OVERALL (23), RUSH (11), PASS (28), SCORING (T12).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Titans minus-2; Jaguars plus-4.
TITANS PLAYER TO WATCH: Derrick Henry. The two-time NFL rushing champ sat out last week’s loss to Dallas with a hip injury and then turned 29 on Wednesday. Henry had 96 yards rushing in the first quarter against Jacksonville a month ago only to finish with 121. He also fumbled twice — only the second time he has done that in his career. Better ball security has been a big focus for Henry, who has three lost fumbles in his past three games.
JAGUARS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Evan Engram was close to unstoppable against the Titans four weeks ago, catching 11 passes for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns. He clearly was a matchup issue for Tennessee, which played without LBs David Long and Zach Cunningham as well as CB Kristian Fulton.
KEY MATCHUP: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee’s third quarterback of the season, makes his second NFL start in six years against the team that traded a fifth-round pick for him in 2019. Dobbs threw for 232 yards last week without Henry in the backfield. He was signed Dec. 21 off Detroit’s practice squad and will have had six full practices, not counting walkthroughs. He threw 39 passes last week, the most by any Titans QB this season.
INJURIES: The Titans should be their healthiest in weeks. They scratched seven starters for last week’s meaningless game against Dallas and expect to have OLB Denico Autry and two-time Pro Bowl DL Jeffery Simmons together for just the second time in seven games. Autry has a team-high eight sacks, with Simmons just behind at 7½. The Jaguars are in decent shape, with several guys recovering from injuries. LS Ross Matiscik is dealing with a back injury that’s preventing him from practicing much but he’s playing through it.
SERIES NOTES: This is the first game in series history that’s been for the AFC South crown. ... Jacksonville’s first victory in its inaugural season (1995) came against the Houston Oilers, but the rivalry really took off when the Titans handed the Jaguars their only three losses in 1999, including in the AFC championship game in Jacksonville. ... The Titans’ most recent loss in Jacksonville came in 2019 with Marcus Mariota starting at quarterback.
STATS AND STUFF: Despite losing six in a row, the Titans can clinch their third consecutive AFC South title. ... The Titans also can clinch a fourth straight playoff berth for the first time since a franchise-record seven consecutive playoff appearances between 1987 and 1993. ... Titans coach Mike Vrabel can join Jeff Fisher (six) and Jack Pardee (four) as the only head coaches to lead this franchise to at least four playoff appearances. ... Titans S Kevin Byard intercepted two passes in his most recent game, giving him 27 for his career. That leads all NFL safeties and trails only Miami’s Xavien Howard (28) in that span. ... This is the first time the Titans have played five nationally televised prime-time games. ... Henry currently ranks third in the NFL with 1,429 yards rushing and is tied for second with 13 rushing TDs. ... Two-time Titans Pro Bowl DL Jeffery Simmons is a sack shy of tying his career high of 8½ sacks set last season ... Titans OLB Denico Autry is a sack away from tying his career high of nine set in 2018 and tied in 2021. ... The Titans lead the NFL for a second straight season in players used with 86 a year after setting the NFL record with 91 in a non-strike season. ... The Jaguars have won four in a row and are trying to return to the postseason for the first time since 2017. ... A victory would give Jacksonville a five-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak in the same season, making the Jags the fifth team to do so in NFL history. The previous was 2015 Kansas City, which had current Jaguars coach Doug Pederson as its offensive coordinator. ... The Jaguars are one of two NFL teams with three players with 60 or more receptions. WR Christian Kirk (78 for 1,009), WR Zay Jones (78-802) and TE Evan Engram (69-739) can become the second trio in NFL history to have three newcomers top 800 yards receiving and first since Miami in 1993. ... Jaguars LB Foye Oluokun leads the NFL with 171 tackles.
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