Tennessee Titans (8-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11)
Coming into the season, most expected the Jaguars to be one of the worst teams in the league, if not the worst team. The Jaguars surprisingly made the AFC Championship game in 2017 led by probably the league’s best defense, but teams led by their defense typically don’t have much staying power, as defensive play is inconsistent year-to-year and keeping together talented defenses under the cap is very challenging long-term, so they missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and opted to do a full teardown and rebuild this off-season, entering the season with probably the league’s worst roster on paper.
The Jaguars threw some people off the scent with their shocking week 1 victory over the Colts, but that looks like an obvious fluke in hindsight, with the Colts now sitting at 8-4 and the Jaguars having lost 11 straight games by an average of about 10 points per game. The Jets are winless and haven’t been competitive in most of their games and the Bengals are missing so many key players, so the Jaguars might not be the worst team in the league, but they aren’t much better, ranking 31st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -4.94%.
The Jaguars’ struggles haven’t been concentrated on one side of the ball either, as they rank 27th in first down rate over expected and 29th in first down rate allowed over expected. Making matters worse, the Jaguars are missing key players due to injury on both sides of the ball right now, missing their top-2 offensive linemen Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder, their top edge defender Josh Allen, and their top-2 cornerbacks CJ Henderson and DJ Hayden.
The Titans have been as bad, if not worse than the Jaguars defensively, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed over expected, but they have an obvious edge on offense, not just over the Jaguars, but over most teams in the league, as they rank 3rd in first down rate over expected. Offense is a much more consistent side of the ball than defense and if the Titans’ defense can be even passable going forward, that will be a big boost for a team that should continue being one of the best in the league on offense, especially with running back Derrick Henry getting into the part of the season where historically he’s been nearly impossible to contain. I have about 11 points of separation overall between these two teams (almost entirely due to the disparity in offensive performance), so we’re getting good value with the Titans as just 7-point favorites in Jacksonville (my calculated line is around Tennessee -9.5 or -10).
The Titans are also in a much better spot, with only an easy home game against the Lions up next, while the Jaguars are playing back-to-back tough games, going to Baltimore next week. Underdogs of 6 or more are 23-69 ATS since 2010 before being underdogs of 6 or more again when their opponent will next be favorites and all three of those conditions should be true here. Given the schedule spot and the disparity between these two offenses, I have a hard time seeing the Jaguars keep this one close, so the Titans seem like an easy bet at -7.
Tennessee Titans 35 Jacksonville Jaguars 24
Pick against the spread: Tennessee -7