The AFC South’s second Thursday night showcase of the season features the Titans and Jaguars, two teams in the odd position of simultaneously fighting to escape the bottom of the standings and closing in on first place in the division. Will Marcus Mariota propel Tennessee to another road win, or will the Jaguars build off last weekend’s controversial last-second escape? Don Banks makes his pick for Thursday Night Football below:
• Last week: 4–10; Season: 92–54 (.630).
• Best pick in Week 9: Tampa Bay 23, Dallas 21 (Actual score: Bucs 10–6).
• Worst pick in Week 9: St. Louis 24, Chicago 17 (Actual score: Bears 37–13).
If this feels like an unappetizing and yet vaguely familiar Thursday night offering, you’re not wrong on either count. It was just last season in Week 16 that we were treated to another Titans at Jaguars primetime matchup on the NFL Network, and it hardly seems fair to double down on this particular pairing only 11 months later. You might recall that 21–13 Jacksonville victory, a game in which both teams entered with identical 2–12 records in the backwards race for the top of the draft order. The Titans’ loss essentially assured them of either the first or second pick, which put them in position to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (with the No. 2 pick, as it turned out), so all’s well that ends well, I suppose.
This time around, it’s the 2–7 Titans against the 3–6 Jaguars, but remarkably enough, both clubs are still in the playoff hunt in the shipwrecked AFC South, which is led by Indianapolis and Houston (both 4–5). At least we get to watch Mariota start for the Titans (rather than Charlie Whitehurst, who played last December), and the rookie will be attempting to make it four consecutive road games without throwing an interception to open his career. That’s an impressive amount of poise exhibited, and don’t forget the Titans’ only two wins this season have come on the road, with Mariota throwing four touchdown passes in both.
Second-year Jags quarterback Blake Bortles has an interesting streak of his own going, having tossed at least two touchdown passes and one interception in each of the past five games. That’s the knack for keeping both teams in the game at all times that a young quarterback sometimes displays, and indeed Jacksonville has played most opponents very closely, with five of its past six games being decided by seven points or less.
Though the Jaguars have only won a total of 10 games in the past three seasons, Tennessee easily is their favorite opponent. They own a win over the Titans in each of the past six years, dating to 2009. And Jacksonville also will be attempting to mount its first home winning streak since going 2–0 in the final two home games of 2011, even though it’s previous “home” victory was a bit of a technicality, coming against “visiting” Buffalo in London in Week 7. No matter. Neither of these teams are in position to be choosy about their wins, so quibbling is strictly prohibited.