Titans vs. Jaguars: Full Game Preview for Tennessee

Chad Minton@@chad_mintonCorrespondent INovember 18, 2015

Titans vs. Jaguars: Full Game Preview for Tennessee

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Night games are not something the Tennessee Titans have gotten to enjoy often in recent times, but they'll get that chance against the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night.

    Despite their 2-7 record, the Titans still have a chance of competing for a division crown. It's hard to believe, but it's true. 

    Both teams have a lot to gain by winning this game, as no one in the AFC South seems to have the capability to pull away.

    The Titans will enter their third game under interim head coach Mike Mularkey as he tries to build his resume to remain this team's head coach beyond 2015. A win over a division opponent to eclipse last season's win total will go a long way toward achieving that goal. 

    Location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

    Time: 8:25 p.m. ET (7:25 p.m. CT)

    TV: NFL Network (National)

Week 10 Results and Recap

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Titans simply ran into a better team in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers. It didn't help matters that a handful of plays helped the Panthers build momentum to pull away in the second half. 

    There was hope at halftime that the Titans would be able to derail the Panthers' perfect record, but the talent gap eventually overtook the game. Cam Newton was too much to handle, and the Panthers proved on the field why their defense is so respected.

    Marcus Mariota battled hard but suffered through one of his worst games in his young NFL career. He even tipped his hat to how good the Panthers were against him, via the Titans official Twitter page:

    Mariota on Panthers: "Hats off to them. They out-executed us, and they're very talented."

    — Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 15, 2015

    What really crippled the Titans was their inability to have any kind of favorable field position. The kick-return game struggled, and the Titans aren't built to sustain long drives against elite defenses.

    The run game also had no luck finding room to run with Antonio Andrews, forcing Mariota to make things happen in the passing game without Kendall Wright. That's a terrible formula for success. 

    They may not be one of the best teams in the NFL, but the Jaguars are slowly building into a formidable club in the AFC. The Titans can't afford to overlook anyone, and that's especially true against this division foe in the national spotlight.

    In the updated AFC South standings, the Houston Texans are tied for first after their major upset over the Cincinnati Bengals. With a win, the Titans can muddy the waters even more in this division. 

    TeamRecordConf. Record

Update on Titans Injuries

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    Wright has 343 yards receiving on 28 receptions this season.
    Wright has 343 yards receiving on 28 receptions this season.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
    Perrish CoxCBHamstring
    Sammie HillDTKnee
    Kendall WrightWRKnee
    Derrick MorganLBShoulder
    Chance WarmackOLAnkle
    Al WoodsDLAnkle
    Blidi Wreh-WilsonCBHamstring
    Justin HunterWRAnkle
    Jason McCourtyCBGroin

    It's that time of year when the injuries start piling up, and the Titans have little room to be missing key players. 

    The most pressing concern is getting Kendall Wright back. He's a vital piece to such a young receiving corps that's limited without him. Defenses have little reason to respect the Titans' passing game with Wright not in the lineup. 

    Even though he isn't fully practicing, there is still a shred of hope that he returns, per Jason Wolf of the Tennessean:

    Mularkey: #Titans WR Kendall Wright (MCL) could play vs Jags without practicing. Not ruled out. Has missed last 2.

    — Jason Wolf (@JasonWolf) November 17, 2015

    Next up on the priority list is the return of Cox to an inexperienced secondary. The Titans have already lost Jason McCourty to a nagging groin injury and can't afford to lose another veteran for an extended amount of time.

    Cox should most likely be back for the Jaguars, via the Titans official Twitter page:

    CB @pcox16: It's a huge advantage to have young players who can fill in and make big plays. But I'm a go this week. pic.twitter.com/2LGFsUjZ0L

    — Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 17, 2015

    He's a huge addition to this secondary, which had trouble finding answers against the Panthers, and the Jaguars' passing game is nothing to sneeze at. The Jags are better than you may realize with Blake Bortles having a great second season as the starter. 

    Al Woods will leave a gap on the interior defensive line as he'll be out, via Wolf:

    #Titans DL Al Woods (high ankle sprain) wearing cast on left leg. Says he hopes to play vs #Raiders on Nov. 29.

    — Jason Wolf (@JasonWolf) November 17, 2015

    Someone will have to step up in place of Justin Hunter as a secondary receiver. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for rookie Tre McBride to make an impact after being called up from the practice squad, and there will still be plenty of targets for Dorial Green-Beckham. 

    All injury information via TitansOnline.com.

News and Notes

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Titans Extremely Young at Wide Receiver

    It was interesting when the Titans went with just four wide receivers out of training camp. With the injuries to Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, it's forcing the position to turn to a lot of youth.

    Rico Richardson has been seeing regular playing time but still hasn't registered a catch. 

    We will finally get to see the athletic Tre McBride in the lineup. He had some buzz in the preseason but didn't end up making the team. He's mostly valuable as a kick returner.

    Tre McBride could help on special teams, on kickoffs. He's faster than Dexter McCluster @Titans

    — Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) November 17, 2015

    The Titans also brought up Andrew Turzilli from the practice squad, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.

    Even if Wright returns, this receiving corps is full of untested players who are being thrown into the fire. Someone is going to have to step up outside of Wright, and Harry Douglas is the best bet to break out for a big game. 

    David Cobb's Possible Debut

    The running game for the Titans has been full of many moving parts this season. There will be yet another new piece to possibly join the party as David Cobb could make his debut.

    Cobb has been on short-term injured reserve since he suffered a calf injury in the preseason. He was looking good in exhibition play up until that injury. It led to the failed signing of Terrance West and also the possible awakening of Antonio Andrews.

    However, Bishop Sankey still plays into this equation. His playing time has all but evaporated, but he's essentially getting a second chance under interim head coach Mike Mularkey. He's impressed coaches in practice, according to John Glennon of the Tennessean.

    It's foreseeable that Andrews will continue to be the primary back, and the secondary guy will change from week to week. I wouldn't expect Cobb to see more than a few carries this week, unless the game becomes a blowout. The backfield still belongs to Andrews for now. 

Key Matchups

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Antonio Andrews vs. Jags Defensive Front

    The winning formula going forward for this Titans team isn't Marcus Mariota throwing the ball all over the place. It's slowing the game down with power running and controlling time of possession.

    The Titans failed miserably at this against the Panthers and lost the game by in the fourth quarter. Fatigue sets in a lot easier when you're not going on sustained drives and controlling possession.

    Antonio Andrews had a rough game against a good defense. The Jaguars are solid against the run, as they give up just 93 yards per game, good for sixth in the league. For the Titans to be successful, they have to control the ground game early on to open up passing lanes for Mariota.

    We may finally see rookie David Cobb in regular-season action for the first time, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com:

    Mularkey said a better chance RB David Cobb plays this week than last week @Titans

    — Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) November 17, 2015

    If he can look as sharp as he did in preseason action, then the Titans will have a chance at creating manageable third downs for the offense. 

    Even with the return of Cobb, Andrews owns the running game. He needs to have a solid game to help the Titans to a win.

    Titans Secondary vs. Allen Hurns

    He's not getting nearly the amount of attention he deserves due to playing in Jacksonville, but Allen Hurns is a player who can give the Titans nightmares.

    Hurns has a touchdown in seven straight games and is averaging 17 yards per reception on the season. He helps make this Jags offense tick. The Titans have to take away one of Blake Bortles' favorite scoring targets.

    With the return of Perrish Cox from injury, he will most likely draw the assignment of Hurns. Cox has had an up-and-down season so far, but shutting down Hurns will go a long way toward keeping the Jaguars off the scoreboard.

    Titans Kick Returning vs. Jaguars Special Teams

    When you have a limited offense, you desperately need favorable starting field position. The Titans haven't had that lately and may be exploring other options outside of Dexter McCluster. It's possible that we'll see Tre McBride get an opportunity, per Wyatt:

    Tre McBride could help on special teams, on kickoffs. He's faster than Dexter McCluster @Titans

    — Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) November 17, 2015

    This is an area the Titans have to win at to be successful. Failing to reach your own 20-yard line can't happen against any NFL team. McCluster has been better on punt returns, but it might be time to explore some others options on kickoff returns. 

    Giving the offense a shorter field to drive will lead to more points and take pressure off a defense that has been getting worn down late in games. 

Matchup X-Factors

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    X-Factor of the Week: Delanie Walker

    Walker has become the glue of this offense. He holds everything together with his veteran leadership and ability to execute. The Titans need him to continue to provide a safety net for Mariota.

    He's going to have to keep playing a big role in the passing game with so many young receivers in the mix. Expect him to get plenty of targets against the Jaguars and further solidify his role as one of the most important pieces on the offense.

    Another solid outing from Walker will put the Titans in good position to gain key first downs and hold onto possessions to avoid three-and-outs.

    Walker has caught 29 of his last 38 targets. The offensive game plan has to keep looking his way when these inexperienced receivers aren't running their initial routes properly.

Final Prediction: Titans 27, Jaguars 21

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Titans have made strides from last year's 2-14 team, but it's hard to notice based on the record. With that being said, they will eclipse their dismal two-win total from 2014. 

    To do that, they'll have to return to having some moderate success while running the ball with Andrews. It doesn't mean he's going to light up the stat sheet for 100-plus yards, but he needs to have success on first and second down. He will be in a timeshare role once again, but he'll have another healthy rushing average to create short-yardage situations on third down. 

    In three road games, Mariota still hasn't thrown an interception. Those were all hostile environments, and he showed the maturity to avoid the big mistakes. He'll come into this game fully prepared to play a sharp enough game to put his team into position to win.

    The defense may once again run into some hurdles against another impressive young quarterback, Blake Bortles. He is fully capable of extending drives with his legs while also making the necessary throws down the field. 

    A fair share of offense will keep this game interesting. The Titans are too resilient to give up on the 2015 season just yet, and Mariota will bounce back in a big way to move the offense up and down the field. They played the undefeated Panthers close for three quarters and will put together a complete performance to notch their third win of the season.

    Prediction: Titans 27, Jaguars 21

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