Rested Titans look to stay in AFC South race as they seek to split season series with Jaguars
Coming off a bye, the Tennessee Titans sit at 5-5 as they enter a pivotal AFC South contest Sunday at Nissan Stadium. The Jacksonville Jaguars enter this Week 12 matchup at 4-6 after a lopsided defeat to the Colts last week. Jacksonville defeated Tennessee 20-7 back in Week 3 on a Thursday night in sloppy conditions. This time around, things will look different. Nick Foles has resumed his role as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars, and Ryan Tannehill is now the starter for Tennessee. When these teams met in Week 3, it was Marcus Mariota against Gardner Minshew.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Tennessee -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Titans are Tannehill's team
Ryan Tannehill has extended the Titans' 2019 season. It will still be an uphill climb to secure a playoff spot, but there is a different feel to this Tennessee team since he has taken over for the benched Marcus Mariota. The Titans are 3-1 in his four starts and are coming off a thrilling 35-32 win over the high-octane Kansas City Chiefs. Tannehill has completed 71 percent of his passes while throwing for eight touchdowns and four interceptions. The offense has seen renewed life with Tannehill, who has more zip to his passes than Mariota and has been much more decisive in his progressions and throws. Nobody is saying that Tannehill is the long-term solution, but if he continues to play like this, he's probably secured himself a bridge deal or a franchise tag, assuming no other NFL franchise offers him a Nick Foles-type contract (four years, $88 million).
2. Nick Foles to the rescue... again?
Speaking of Nick Foles, the Jaguars have what they hope is their franchise signal-caller back at the helm. Foles completed 33-of-47 passes for 296 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception last week in a 33-13 defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. Last week was Foles' first appearance since suffering a broken left collarbone in the season opener against the Chiefs. Jacksonville has lost four of six, but the Jaguars hope that Foles can save their season and help them go on another magical run.
3. Backfield battle
Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette are used to facing each other on a Saturday or Sunday. Both shined at their respective SEC schools (Fournette at LSU, Henry at Alabama), and both are shining on Sundays this season. Fournette enters this contest with 854 rushing yards on 4.69 yards per carry, while Henry has amassed 832 yards on 4.45 yards per attempt. Last year when the Jaguars came to Nissan Stadium, Henry set the Music City on fire with an electrifying 99-yard touchdown run, highlighted by multiple stiff-arms and broken tackles that will live in Titans lore. Whichever running back can establish himself early will certainly give his franchise the edge on Sunday afternoon.
The Titans seem rejuvenated. They are 3-1 with Ryan Tannehill, defeated the Chiefs in epic fashion and are fresh off the bye. The Jaguars are taking on water and come into Nashville after a poor showing on the road against divisional foe Indianapolis. It's very difficult to beat a team twice in a season, and I expect that to be the case on Sunday. The key for Tennessee will be if they can be respectable along the offensive line. Can Rodger Saffold hold up in pass protection? Will Taylor Lewan avoid costly penalties? Did this offensive line shore up its weaknesses during the bye week? If so, the Titans should win, but as we know, with the Titans, it's never easy.
Prediction: Titans 26, Jaguars 20
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.