The Jacksonville Jaguars head to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in a matchup that looks like their best chance to pick up their first win of the season. Sitting at 1-4, the Titans have lost four straight since their opening day win over the Kansas City Chiefs and have been blown out in three of their four losses, with the team blowing a 28-0 lead to lose to the Cleveland Browns 29-28 last week.
The Jaguars have played much better overall the last two weeks, going blow-for-blow in the first half against the San Diego Chargers and fighting a close game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week undone by a Blake Bortles interception returned for a touchdown late, and the matchup with the Titans seems like one in the Jaguars favor.
When the Jaguars are on offense
As dumb as this sounds, run the football. The Titans are one of the worst teams stopping the run, giving up 136.6 rushing yards per game so far on the season. Ben Tate ran wild on the Titans last week with 124 yards while as a team the Browns rushed for 176. The Jaguars have struggled to run the football overall, but since the insertion of Bortles into the lineup it's gotten better. The team has also opened up the running back competition after the performance of rookie running back Storm Johnson last week, so it seems like a prime game for the Jaguars to finally get the running game going.
It should also be a prime bounce-back type game for Bortles as the Titans pass rush is rather anemic so far on the season as they transition to a 3-4 defensive front. The Titans have just nine sacks on the season and are giving up 7.4 YPA in the passing game so far. The team is also without starting safety Bernard Pollard, so look for the Jaguars to challenge deep a few times early against a weak pass rush and a back up safety. It's a prime opportunity to establish running the ball early and work in the read-option/play-action game.
When the Jaguars are on defense
With the uncertainty at quarterback for the Titans and their struggles running the football, the Jaguar should load the box and force whoever is at quarterback, which likely won't be Jake Locker, to beat them in the air. While that might sound stupid because of how the Jaguars pass defense has been, they've improved since Josh Evans took over at free safety. The team has kept tight ends in check the past two games with better play from Jonathan Cyprien, but they'll still need to account for Delanie Walker.
The Jaguars should also make like as rough as possible on rookie left tackle Taylor Lewan, who's going to be starting in place of the injured veteran Michael Roos. With a rookie on the left and Michael Oher, who's as average as the day is long, the team should be able to bring pressure from the edges while Sen'Derrick Marks works on a soft interior line to make it tough for whoever is at quarterback for Tennessee.
This sounds like I think the Jaguars will just go in and dominate the Titans, which isn't the case, but I do think this is one of their most winnable games so far on the season. If the team can continue the momentum of improvement from the last two games, it should be at the least a very close game.