Look, I get that the NFL wants every team to get one national appearance on Thursday each season. But please stop force-feeding us Jaguars-Titans! This is the third straight year these two downtrodden franchises will meet on Thursday Night Football. And the NFL wonders why ratings are sagging. But even a pretty lousy NFL matchup will draw good ratings and certainly strong betting action at sportsbooks as your only other live betting options on Thursday with no World Series game that night are the NHL, NBA or a couple of Major League Soccer playoff games.
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I think it's fair to say this will be the final prime-time game for both head coaches. The Titans surprised many by making Mike Mularkey the full-time coach this past offseason after he finished up last year as the interim guy. But he's clearly not the long-term answer. It's more the Titans are in some transition and there continue to be reports the team will be sold. Both Jon Bon Jovi (who tried to buy the Bills) and Peyton Manning have been linked to a purchase of the team. Manning will be an owner some day, you can mark that down.
Barring an unlikely run to the playoffs, there's zero chance that Gus Bradley is back next year at Jacksonville. I don't care how nice a guy you are or whatever, if your team is 14-40 under your watch, you get fired. Bradley was a defensive guy, and I expect his replacement will be offensive-minded to work with struggling third-year quarterback Blake Bortles. New England's Josh McDaniels is a name you hear, although he might want to wait for a better opening.
Jaguars at Titans Betting Story Lines
As mediocre-to-bad as these teams are, the AFC South is still very winnable for both. Houston leads at 4-3 and is the +100 betting favorite at BetOnline, but are you ready to wager on Brock Osweiler doing anything positive? Indianapolis (3-4) is at +225 but seriously flawed everywhere but quarterback. Tennessee is +400 for the division and Jacksonville +800.
Tennessee (3-4) could find itself in a three-way tie for the division lead by Sunday evening with a win here as the Texans certainly could lose at home Sunday on a short week against improving Detroit. The Titans let one get away Sunday against the visiting Colts. Marcus Mariota tied the game at 20 early in the fourth on a 7-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker and the Titans took the lead 23-20 with six minutes to go on a Ryan Succop 48-yard kick. But then the Colts scored two TDs in eight game seconds: a 7-yard Andrew Luck TD pass with 1:55 to go and a Robert Mathis 14-yard TD fumble return of a Mariota strip sack with 1:47 left. The Titans just don't know yet how to win close games consistently -- or beat Luck, who is unbeaten against them as a starter. Mariota still shows signs of being a very good pro quarterback as he didn't throw a pick and had two TD passes, including one to left tackle Taylor Lewan. Mariota has eight TD passes, tied with Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady for the NFL lead the past three weeks with a 113.1 rating and 138 yards rushing. Mariota is a definite keeper.
The Titans are one of the NFL's best rushing teams behind DeMarco Murray, a steal from Philly this offseason in an Eagles salary dump. He had 107 yards and a TD on 25 carries vs. the Colts, his third 100-yard game of the year. He's third in the NFL in rushing. The team has gotten away from rookie Derrick Henry, who looked great in the postseason. He has just 13 carries combined the past four games.
Tennessee had a few guys come out of the Colts game banged up: left guard Quinton Spain is going to miss perhaps a month with a knee issue, cornerback Perrish Cox will miss this week with a concussion, while receiver Tajae Sharpe (knee), tight end Walker (chest) and safety Rashad Johnson (neck) are in question.
The Jaguars (2-4) might beat themselves more than any team in the NFL, and that's on the head coach. In Sunday's 33-16 home loss to Oakland, the team was out of control at times with a few personal foul penalties and a fight. The Jags turned it over three times and had 13 penalties for 112 yards. Bortles wasn't very good, going 23-for-43 for 246 yards, one TD (in garbage time) and two picks (one early in the game into triple coverage in the end zone). It was his NFL-high 13th game with multiple picks since 2014.
I did think Jacksonville could win the AFC South this year because Bortles exploded for franchise records of 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. But he still had turnover problems with 18 picks and two fumbles. He has 11 giveaways this year and is one of the lowest-rated QBs in the NFL, including the worst on third down. I don't get it as he has two excellent receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns and a good tight end in Julius Thomas.
But the team can't run the ball (second-to-last in the NFL) and his offensive line isn't great. Bradley felt compelled to say Bortles remains his starter, but there's no point in going to journeyman backup Chad Henne. The Jaguars did lose nose tackle Roy Miller to a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon in the Raiders loss.
Jaguars at Titans Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Tennessee is a 3-point favorite (-125) with a total of 44.5. On the moneyline, the Titans are -175 and the Jaguars +155. On the alternate lines, the Titans are -2.5 (-150) and -3.5 (+100). Jacksonville is 3-3 against the spread (1-1 on road) and 4-2 "over/under" (1-1 on road). Tennessee is 2-5 ATS (0-4 at home) and 5-2 O/U (3-1 at home).
The Jags are 6-2-1 ATS in their past nine vs. the AFC South. The Titans are 0-4-1 ATS in their past five at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The over is 9-3 in Jacksonville's past 12 after a loss. The over is 6-1-1 in Tennessee's past eight after a loss. The Jags are 8-1-2 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five.
Jaguars at Titans Betting Prediction
These teams probably will split the season series because that's what they have done each of the past seven years. The Jags have won the past two vs. Tennessee on Thursday but at home. I like the Jacksonville roster better overall, but Mariota is most trustworthy under center than Bortles is. And you know the Titans can run the ball. Give the 2.5 points and go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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