With last week's overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Tennessee Titans have affirmed the assumptions made by fans two weeks ago. For the fifth consecutive season, Tennessee will be watching the playoffs from home.
Last week's loss was the last opportunity for head coach Mike Munchak to pick up any kind of appreciable win before the season ends. Despite facing the league's fifth-most difficult schedule, the Titans have no wins against a team that currently has a winning record. The 7-7 San Diego Chargers are the last win of significance.
The Titans are 0-4 in the league's worst division, including a loss to the then 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 10. The opportunity to get their chance for revenge arrives this weekend in a matchup that has little meaning other than playoff seeding and next season's schedule.
Since the two teams first played one another, the Titans have gone a dismal 1-4 while the Jags sit just a game back after going 3-2. In the first meeting, the Titans let themselves slip into a 13-point hole before putting up points at the end of the half.
In order to come out of Jacksonville with a different result than the first meeting, here are a few of the things that the Titans will need to have go their way.
|Titans and Jaguars NFL Ranks|
|Tennessee Titans||Category||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|16th||Yards Per Attempt||30th|
|19th||Yards Per Carry||30th|
|14th||Yards Per Attempt||22nd|
|14th||Yards Per Carry||17th|
Win the Turnover Battle
For the Titans' first play of the game in Week 10, the Titans handed the ball to Chris Johnson, who promptly fumbled the ball and gave the ball to the Jaguars on Tennessee's 19-yard line. Jacksonville handed the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew on three straight plays, resulting in a six-yard touchdown run.
The Titans lost three fumbles in the game and tossed in an interception as well. Tennessee's defense was able to pick off two Chad Henne passes, but it wasn't enough after the team's painfully slow start to the game.
Jacksonville was outgained 362-214 in total offense after the first game. In reality, the Jaguars didn't have a very strong performance in this game. They were able to take advantage of the Titans' lackluster start and poor ball security, just holding on for the win.
If the Titans can maintain better ball possession, they should fare much better against their division rivals.
Another Strong Performance from the Defensive Line
While three sacks isn't a huge day by a defense, the Titans were able to do that and pressure Henne with consistency during the team's first meeting. They finished with two hits on Henne, eight hurries and three batted passes, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The entire defensive line was dominant in stopping the run as well, keeping the running game bottled up throughout the game. Jacksonville finished the game with 30 carries for 54 yards. That the Titans offense couldn't put forth a similar effort is what cost Tennessee the game.
Jurrell Casey has had a Pro Bowl-caliber year whether he's voted in or not. He leads all defensive tackles with 11 sacks and has reached the point where he can be counted on for a strong performance from a week-to-week basis.
The Titans will need strong showings from the rest of the front four to repeat their results. Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua and the defensive tackle rotation will need to duplicate their dominance to hold Jacksonville to its actual scoring potential.
Establish the Ground Game
Last week Tennessee called 58 pass plays and just 19 rushes. Understandable against a defense as stout as the Arizona Cardinals' No. 1-ranked run defense, but things will need to change facing the Jaguars.
The Jaguars are allowing an average of 131.9 yards per game, good for 30th in the league, yet they somehow held the Titans to 83 yards in the teams' first meeting. Obviously, the turnover issues played a factor in the Titans' play-calling, but Chris Johnson and Co. have to produce more on 27 carries.
At the end of the first half, the run-pass ratio was pretty even at 17 runs to 13 passes—counting scrambles as runs, of course. The issue is a bit of predictability. On 12 first downs in the first half, the Titans ran the ball nine times for 24 yards, including eight yards on a Jake Locker scramble.
One of the issues with this coaching staff has been its lack of creativity offensively. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will need to do a better job of mixing up his first-down play calls to help get the team off to a faster start.
*All stats gathered from NFL.com, unless otherwise sourced.