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NFL Betting: Titans vs. Jaguars Thursday Night Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 12/19/2014 10:14:22 AM

The Jacksonville Jaguars are favored in an NFL regular season game for the first time in over 40 such contests. That’s a big story as two AFC South teams prepare for Thursday night.

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Thursday, December 18

The Tennessee Titans have done what no NFL team has been able to do over the past two and a half NFL seasons: be bad enough that the Jacksonville Jaguars are favored in an NFL regular season game. Since 16 games marks a full regular season, it’s been just over two and a half seasons since the last time Jacksonville was favored: in the first half of the 2012 season.

What has brought about this reality? Let’s start with the Titans. They lost at home to the New York Jets on Sunday in a battle of two of the NFL’s worst teams. The loser was going to get a higher draft pick, so there was a lot of speculation that the two teams had more incentive to lose than to win. The fact that the Titans were playing at home only makes their loss that much more of an indicator of how far they’ve fallen this season.

Tennessee simply does not have any real strengths. The Titans are not terrible at pass defense – they’re 18th out of 32 teams in the league in that category – but they’re one of the six worst rushing teams (86.4 yards per game) and have the worst rushing defense in the league (139.6 yards allowed per game). It is very hard to win with that kind of statistical profile.

Jacksonville rates 21st or worse in four basic yardage-based categories: rushing yards gained and allowed, and passing yards gained and allowed. This is a team which averages under 300 yards of total offense per game (198 passing, 95 rushing, for a total of 293, which – rounded off by decimals – is 294). The Jaguars have scored more than 17 points only once in their past four games. They have never scored more than 25 points in a game this season. How can this team be favored? The explanation can be found in a few sources. First, after the Jaguars’ defense allowed an average of 38 points per game in its first four games of the season, Jacksonville has actually been solid on that side of the line of scrimmage. Jacksonville has given up an average of under 21 points per game in its last 10 games. That’s not bad, and what’s more is that Tennessee hasn’t scored more than 24 points in any game since Oct. 5 against Cleveland. The Titans have scored a combined total of 18 points in their last two games. They are rudderless and lost.

The other main reason why Jacksonville is favored is that the Jaguars beat Tennessee last season and very nearly won on the road in Nashville this season before falling, 16-14. The Jaguars have consistently played the Titans tough. Getting them at home really does seem like a good situation for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a good bet to win and cover.

Pick: Jaguars -4.5

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