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VOL. 40 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 23, 2016

Titans at Jaguars: What to watch

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First down: Take care of business. The Titans have gotten themselves in a position to contend for a playoff spot. The next step is a Christmas Eve road game against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even at 2-12, the Jags are still playing hard, as evidenced by their near upset of Houston on Sunday. The Titans cannot afford a slip-up because a loss here would undo much of the good that has been building for several weeks.

Second down: Be ready for anything. The Jaguars fired Gus Bradley after Sunday’s loss to Houston and replaced him with interim coach Doug Marrone, who interviewed for the Titans’ gig that went to Mike Mularkey.

The Titans know full well a team with an interim coach can be dangerous in the short run. They were that team last year, winning Mularkey’s first game with an upset of the Saints in the Superdome.

Third down: Keep running the football. The Titans are built to run the ball and have done so very well in recent cold weather games. Now that they will be heading to Jacksonville, where the temperatures may be in the 70s or 80s, they still need to continue that mindset of establishing the run early and making it the staple of their attack.

Fourth down: Avoid turnovers. The Titans showed some resilience by overcoming three turnovers against the Chiefs. But that’s not the formula for sustained success. Tennessee must win the turnover battle because a mistake in a key situation could give the Jaguars hope of pulling off an upset.

Matchups to watch

Marcus Mariota vs. Jalen Ramsey: The Ensworth High graduate played very well against the Texans last Sunday and is beginning to show why the Jaguars invested a top-five pick in him this spring. He would love nothing better than to pick off a pass from the Titans’ emerging young QB.

Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns vs. Valentino Blake and LeShaun Sims: Jason McCourty’s status could be in doubt with a shoulder issue. The Titans already have been rotating cornerbacks by series, and have been getting decent results the past two games. The Jaguars have big play receivers in Robinson and Hurns that the Titans will have to keep in check.

Brian Orakpo vs. Blake Bortles: Orakpo has 11 sacks this season, tying a career-high set his rookie year with the Redskins. Bortles has a long, windup-type delivery and could be a target for the Titans pass rush, despite his scrambling ability. The scouting report on the Jaguars quarterback is that a little pressure can create errant throws.

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