Symmetry that’s the word that best describes both of this week’s previews with one side in this case the Jaguars facing a win and you are in the playoffs scenario.
The Jaguars need a win to lock up the AFC South and a home playoff game while a loss bumps them from the postseason altogether (even a Texans-Colts tie eliminates the Jaguars if they lose). The Titans enter Week 18 with a 5-11 record and the role of spoiler with nothing else left to play for.
Jacksonville would very much settle for the same result as when these two sides met back in November running out 34-14 winners and they certainly come into this game in better shape than the Titans. Tennessee got beaten up by the Texans 26-3 last week whilst the Jaguars put the hapless Panthers to the sword to the tune of 26-0.
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In this series the Jaguars have won three straight, ending Tennessee’s streak of five consecutive wins in this AFC South rivalry. The Jaguars are trying to win back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1998-99 seasons. The Titans are 18-10 at home against the Jaguars but on this occasions the road team are favoured by -4.5 points (Evens) by Star Sports.
The Jaguars are 6-2 away from home this season but have lost consecutive games on the road. They are 0-3 in marquee games, losing to defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City in September and in prime-time games against Cincinnati and Baltimore in December. The Jaguars feature in a Star Sports Boosted Special this week which features three road teams who all need a win called “On The Road,” with the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Eagles priced at 5-2 from 2-1 all to win away from home.
The Jaguars should really have had a playoff spot all wrapped up by now as at one stage of the season they were well clear at the top of the AFC South but consecutive defeats to the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and Buccaneers have seen them drinking in the last chance saloon, At 9-7 they are looking for a win that will not only seal the #4 seed in the AFC playoff race but also see them gain their first 10 win season since 2017.
The Titans have had a very disappointing season with just five wins and they could well be destined for a top five draft slot, but with a chance to play spoiler to a divisional rival they should still be playing hard, this is no just turn up and win game for the Jaguars.
If there’s one team in the league that likely takes the role of spoiler to heart, it’s probably this Titans team. As in, head coach Mike Vrabel has worked hard to establish a winning culture in Tennessee, making it likely we see full effort from this team against the banged-up Jaguars. Talking of injuries it’s still not clear who will start at quarterback for the Titans with rookie Will Levis being forced from the game last week and Ryan Tannehill taking over and it could be the latter who has one last game for the Titans as he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this game and it would be a surprise if he didn’t move on from Tennessee.
Talking of moving on this could well be the last game for the Titans leading rusher Derrick Henry who turned 30 Thursday, and this is his final game under his current contract. The two-time NFL rushing leader and eighth man to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season ranks fifth in the league rushing this season. While it would be a great script to see Henry churn out one last bulldozing performance in Tennessee, he draws a Jacksonville defence allowing 3.7 YPC to running backs (fifth) and 9.7 rushing points per game (fifth) to backfields. Henry rushed 10 times for 38 yards when these teams played in Week 11 but Henry is still dangerous. He might be set for one last hurrah, if that’s the case then the 5-6 on Henry to score a TD with Star Sports looks relatively attractive. Henry needs one more rushing TD to reach 90 for his career, which would tie him with Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin for 13th all time.
The Titans receiving corps has suffered multiple injuries this year and that has meant that the pass catching group has become a very concentrated one. DeAndre Hopkins, Chris Moore, Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo have all handled more than 70 percent snap rates of late. The most interesting of that group is undoubtedly Hopkins who has plenty to play for via these contract incentives. Hopkins has a lot to play for: 49 receiving yards for $1 million, 7 catches to cash in $250k, $500k if he hits 75% snaps played on the year – Hopkins currently has played 72% of the Titan’s offensive snaps.
Hopkins has a team-high 68 catches for 1,011 yards and six TDs. He needs seven more receptions for the franchise’s first 75-catch season since Delanie Walker in 2015. Could it be the case that whoever is at quarterback will be looking to get the ball to Hopkins and the over on his receiving yards (+64.5) can be backed at 10-11 with Star Sports. Hopkins caught 4-of-5 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown when these teams played in Week 11.
The Jaguars have injuries and QB Trevor Lawrence missed the game last week but despite being limited at practice this week is expected to play with plenty on the line for the Jaguars. If Lawrence plays, he needs 264 pass yards to become the first Jaguars QB with multiple 4,000-yard seasons. The last few games he has played have been rough for Lawrence and he will be playing through a shoulder injury here. The real problem is it’s through the air that you really want to attack the Titans D and not on the ground so having a QB dealing with injuries along with a receiving corps who are also suffering knocks Is far from ideal. The area where the Jaguars need to improve is in the red zone and here they run in a defence that rank first in in red zone touchdown rate allowed.
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The run game for the Jaguars will face quite a challenge against a Titans run defence holding opposing backs to 3.8 yards per carry. Travis Etienne continues to dominate the opportunities in the Jacksonville backfield but Etienne found little room to operate when these teams played in Week 11, rushing 14 times for 52 yards (3.7 YPC), and catching three passes for seven yards. If Lawrence isn’t 100% then Jacksonville will need to lean on Etienne who at least comes into this off the back of a good game last week where he turned 18 touches into 118 yards and two touchdowns, the only touchdowns they scored in the game. Etienne is priced at 18-1 in the Star Sports Specials Market “Most Rushing Yards on Sunday” where the value would lie with James Conner (Arizona) 10-1, Zamir White (Las Vegas) 14-1 and Pierre Strong Jr (Cleveland) 25-1.
There is no shortage of uncertainty surrounding the Jacksonville pass game with all of Lawrence, Zay Jones and Christian Kirk dealing with injuries. If Kirk can go then it will give a considerable upside to the passing offence of the Jaguars along with TE Evan Engram who is eighth tight end in NFL history to catch at least 100 passes in a season. He now has 104, 12 shy of the franchise record set by Jimmy Smith in 1999. Engram had 11 catches for a career-high 162 yards and two TDs against Tennessee last season.
The Titans will want to keep this game as close as possible and take the game into the 4th quarter and unsettle the Jaguars who all the pressure is on, especially on the road. Given the game scenario and the injuries that Jacksonville are carrying it’s unlikely they will run away with this game the key may well be how they convert their red zone opportunities against the best red zone defence in the NFL.
BACK Total Match Points under 43 match points 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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BACK DeAndre Hopkins over +64.5 receiving yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (JAN 2024): PROFT -1.00 points