Week 14 of the NFL season kicks off in Nashville as the 6-6 Titans play host to the 4-8 Jaguars. Tennessee enters this one right in the thick of the playoff mix, registering a crucial comeback victory last week. Having benched often-maligned QB Blake Bortles, the Jaguars managed their first win in 8 games last week. Whilst it isn’t the most appealing matchup on paper, there is still a ton of value from a betting perspective. Let’s take a look at our 3 best bets on the board in this AFC South grudge match.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Friday 12:20 pm
The Titans enter this one at 6-6 after a last-minute victory over the Jets last week. QB Marcus Mariota delivered an impressive display, throwing for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushing for a further 43. In Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry, the Titans also have one of the premier Running Back duos in the league. Wide Receiver Corey Davis has stepped up in a team devoid of pass-catchers, with 744 receiving yards on the campaign and 3 touchdowns in his last 4 games. Against a tough Jacksonville defence, Mariota will need to be on his game here.
Defensively, the Titans are widely considered to be one of the best units in the NFL. Whilst this was definitely true early on, their performances have waned in recent weeks. They gave up scoring efforts of 38 and 34 points to the Colts and Texans respectively in blowout divisional losses. That said, they’ve largely done a great job this season against poor offences like Jacksonville’s. Jurrell Casey and Harold Landry have proven to be beasts on the defensive line, while ex-Patriots Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan have performed excellently in the secondary.
The Jaguars rebounded from 7 straight losses last week, with a 6-0 home victory over the Colts in an exciting affair. Sarcasm aside, the Jaguars offence continued to struggle last week. Cody Kessler has been named as the new starting QB, however he could only manage 150 yards passing last week. The Jags rushing attack couldn’t do all that much either, totalling only 79 yards on their 27 carries. One of the few positives for this team was that Kessler took care of the ball, avoiding interceptions and allowing this elite defence to seal the deal.
On defence, the Jaguars were flawless last week and looked back to their 2017 best. They shut out the Colts offence and effectively limited all big plays. Perhaps what was most impressive was how they limited Andrew Luck, who managed only 4.8 yards per pass attempt. The rush defence was just as good, holding an improved Colts rushing attack to just 2.6 yards per attempt. In Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Myles Jack, they have one of the NFL’s premier defensive fronts, supported capably by Ramsey and Bouye in the secondary. After receiving a lot of criticism throughout the season, it was great to see this unit playing with some swagger again.
Whilst they’ve been much more competitive of late, I just can’t put my faith in this Jaguars team. Having gone 0-8 in his previous start, I really don’t see how Cody Kessler is an upgrade on the already terrible Blake Bortles. This means that they’ll have to lean considerably on the rushing attack, with the defense stacking the box accordingly. With several injuries on this Jaguars offensive line, I also expect a huge day from the Tennessee defensive front here.
Offensively, I think the Titans match up surprisingly well with this Jaguars defence. In Henry and Lewis, they have a perfect complementary rushing duo that can tire out this strong Jaguars front. With Mariota’s excellent mobility, I see him having a relatively clean game where he avoids mistakes. I also expect Tennessee to come out with much more urgency here, as they are right in the thick of the competitive AFC playoff mix.
Having already dropped from the opener of 38.5 points, money has been pouring in on the under here. As such, I’m opting to go against the grain and take some action on the over here. After last week’s defensive slugfest against Indianapolis, I think there is considerable line value on the over here. Whilst Cody Kessler isn’t one to put up huge numbers, the return of Leonard Fournette is a significant boost to this offence.
Similarly, I think this Titans offence is poised for another strong outing here. Marcus Mariota is rounding into form after returning from injury and looked very good near the end of the Jets game. With how opportunistic both of these defences are, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few defensive scores in this one. 37 points is extremely low for an NFL total in 2018 and there is definitely enough talent on the field here to eclipse that number.
First TD Scorer: Derrick Henry
With the Titans as comfortable 4.5-point favourites in this one, the odds are definitely in their favour of scoring the first touchdown. Now firmly established as the Titans primary red-zone Running Back, the former Heisman trophy winner looks good value to score first here. Whilst his yards per carry average is down considerably this season, he’s currently on pace for the most touchdowns of his career. His form has also noticeably improved of late, with all of his 5 touchdowns coming in his last 6 games. One of the best bruising backs in the league, I’m expecting a short-yardage Henry touchdown to open the scoring.
Score Prediction: Tennessee Titans 24-17 Jacksonville Jaguars