Jaguars Open Season Against Rival Tennessee Titans
The ’under’ is 5-1 in the last six meetings between the Titans and Jaguars.
Professional football is finally back and Sunday’s first week of NFL action includes an AFC South grudge match between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. (ET) from EverBank Field.
The Jags were a 3-point favorite when some huge news came down the pipe, causing the line to go off the board. On Tuesday, just five days before the team’s opener, the Jaguars released veteran starting quarterback David Garrard.
There are now a wide variety of odds, but the Don Best odds screen currently has Jacksonville -2½ with a low total set at 37.
Head coach Jack Del Rio and GM Gene Smith, who is doing a masterful job in his third year rebuilding this roster, made it clear that this decision was purely football related. It should not be ignored, however, that Garrard would have made around $8 million had he been on the roster on Sunday.
Instead, eighth year journemany Luke McCown out of Lousiana Tech will get the start in Week 1.
This has an eerily similar feel to the very situation when Garrard first became the starter back in 2007, taking over for Byron Leftwich who was surprisingly let go. The Jaguars actually went on to defeat the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the playoffs that season.
Jacksonville has a couple of the factors that many thought would be important coming out of a lockout. They have a veteran head coach, both coordinators returning and McCown has at least been in their system for two years.
Owner Wayne Weaver has already stated that if the Jags do not make the playoffs, Del Rio will be gone. Rookie Blaine Gabbert is the QB of the future; McCown starts Week 1. Time will tell how long Gabbert holds the clipboard.
On the Tennessee side there is a rookie head coach, a new QB and their entire offseason was highlighted by a holdout from their best player, Chris Johnson.
Tennessee’s top-2 passers from a year ago are gone and that might be best. However, the Titans picked up a QB on the backside of his career in Matt Hasselbeck. With Hasselbeck, the Titans get a player who can play lights out (as in the Seahawks’ improbable victory over the Saints in last year’s playoffs), but also one who has not thrown more TDs than interceptions in any of the last three seasons. The Titans' rookie QB-in-waiting is former Washington Huskies star Jake Locker.
Of course, they are a running team and the offense will revolve around Johnson. He will start this game but it is yet to be seen how he will play after being out for the entire preseason.
Someone who has been working hard is star running back Maurice Jones-Drew. MoJo suffered from a knee injury throughout 2010 but did not do anything about it until the last couple weeks when Jacksonville’s playoff hopes were on life support. The coaching staff left him and defensive end Aaron Kampman out until Week 4 of the preseason, staying on the safe side with their rehab from injury.
These teams have long been about running the ball and defense. However, in 2010 defense was a problem for both as the Titans and Jags were No. 26 and No. 28 in total ‘D,’ respectively.
Tennessee had an underrated free agent signing in linebacker Barrett Ruud as well as drafting another, Akeem Ayers from UCLA.
Jacksonville put a major emphasis on the defensive side signing a ton of solid, key free agents including linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry and nickel-back Drew Coleman. Safety play for the Jaguars may have been one of the biggest issues of any NFL team a year ago. They were San Diego Chargers special teams bad.
Last year’s No. 10 pick in the 2010 draft, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, has been the best looking player on the Jaguars in practice and the preseason. He could have a breakout year. Add Kampman back to the mix along with an extremely good and underrated player in their other DT, Terrance Knighton, and this defensive line may wreak havoc.
This series has been odd of late. In the past four games, the teams have split wins evenly and every game was a double-digit victory. Furthermore, they each won at home in 2009 and each won on the road in 2010.
One of the best trends to look at in this game is that Jacksonville is 10-2 against the spread in their last 12 season openers. Each team has multiple trends shading to the ‘over’ but the 'under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
Temperatures should be about 85 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms at kickoff. Even if the weather is not beautiful, the return of NFL Sundays sure is.