NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Titans at Jaguars

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Tennessee Titans (2-12) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, at EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla. – TV: NFL Network

*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

*Keys to the game: The fact that Charlie Whitehurst is starting for the Titans underscores the rebuilding task ahead of Ken Whisenhunt and Tennessee, which along with the Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders are in the thick of the race for the NFL’s worst record — and the reward of owning the No. 1 overall pick in 2015.

The gem of the Jaguars’ rookie class — 2014 third overall pick Blake Bortles — plans to play even if he’s limited by a sprained foot. Bortles has been battered this season, but sharp improvement in decision-making and avoiding turnovers stoked optimism that he’ll be the keeper the team envisioned. What he has lacked is the support of a steady rushing attack. Cast as featured backs, Toby Gerhart and then Denard Robinson (IR), give way this week to Storm Johnson and Jordan Todman. Each averages 3.2 yards per carry.

Still hope exists for Jacksonville to move it on the ground against the Titans, who rank 32nd in NFL at 139 rushing yards per game allowed.

Tennessee’s offensive line is in dire straits due to injuries. The Jaguars will bring every flavor of pressure, with a goal of baiting Whitehurst into mistakes.

Whitehurst knows he’ll get hit — he has watched Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker go down with contact injuries behind the line of scrimmage. Tennessee needs to find its running game, which has been missing for 2 1/2 months and ranks 27th in the NFL.

*Matchup to watch – Jaguars C Luke Bowanko vs. Titans NT Sammie Hill. Bowanko is a rookie who struggled against the Ravens last week and could be exploited by Hill.

*Player spotlight – Jaguars DL Sen’Derrick Marks: Playing through a toe injury against his former team, Marks has plenty to play for, including a $600,000 bonus provision in his contract triggers when he gets eight sacks. He currently has 7.5 with two games left. But he said he will play his normal game and not try to think about getting the sack.

*Fast facts: This would be the eighth consecutive year the Jaguars drafted in the top 10 and fourth in a row in the top five. … The Titans’ franchise last had the No. 1 overall pick in 1978, when the then-Houston Oilers selected Texas RB Earl Campbell.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Jaguars are favored at home by three points after being the underdogs in 42 consecutive games. Blake Bortles makes the most of his primetime debut in a close game by making plays on his own.

*Our pick: Jaguars 20-15


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