Week 3 of the NFL season gets underway with an important battle in the AFC South between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 EST on Thursday, September 19 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Fans can watch the game on the NFL Network.
The Titans have opened the week as 2-point favorites on the road. This game also has an over/under of 40 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 3 NFL odds.
It’s hard not to feel bad for the Jaguars, who have started the season 0-2. They had to begin the season by facing the Chiefs and almost immediately lost new quarterback Nick Foles to injury. Rookie Gardner Minshew gave them a fighting chance to pull off a road win over the Texans last week, only for Leonard Fournette to come up millimeters shy of the goal line on the 2-point conversion.
Of course, a 13-12 loss is still a loss in the standings and now the Jags have their backs up against the wall. With three of their next four games coming on the road, Thursday’s game is a must-win for Jacksonville. Even with plenty of winnable games left on their schedule, starting the year 0-3 might be too much to overcome with the Jags relying on a rookie quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The Titans, on the other hand, are 1-1 but let an opportunity to start the season 2-0 slip through their fingers. Tennessee couldn’t have been more impressive when they blew out the Browns on the road in Week 1. But it was a different story entirely in Week 2. The Titans led the Colts in the fourth quarter but couldn’t close out the game and couldn’t get into field goal position in the final minutes of the 19-17 loss.
The good news for Tennessee is that no team in the AFC South started the year 2-0. That puts them in an early three-way tie for first place. However, they continue a road-heavy start to the season with road games in Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Denver between now and the middle of October. After all the promise they showed in Week 1, the last thing the Titans want to do to their fanbase is fall to 1-2.
Recent history is working in Tennessee’s favor in this game. The Titans have won their last four head-to-head meetings with the Jaguars, including an ugly 9-6 win in Jacksonville last year. Considering their start to the season, this would be a great time for the Jaguars to snap their losing streak to the Titans.
This is a game in which Jacksonville’s desperation could pay off. The Jags are at home, which could favor them even more in a short week. Despite falling short on the 2-point conversion on Sunday, they will feel good about how their defense played against the Texans and their offense scoring on the final drive of the game. This figures to be a tight, low-scoring affair, which makes me want to lean toward the home underdog.
Part of me wanted to buy Titans stock after Week 1, but last week, they reminded me why that’s often a bad idea. The inconsistent nature of Marcus Mariota showed up and was a factor in the loss. Even with Derrick Henry providing a stable rushing attack, Mariota struggled in Week 2, throwing for just 154 yards. It hasn’t helped that the Titans have allowed eight sacks over their first two games, which is another reason to be skeptical of Mariota and the Tennessee offense.
Those protection issues are a good reason to think that the Jacksonville defense can keep the Titans contained on Thursday. Even with Yannick Ngakoue out injured, the Jags sacked Deshaun Watson four times last week. They also kept a receiving corps far more talented than Tennessee’s receivers in check all game. In fact, Houston’s only touchdown of the game came on an 11-yard drive that followed a Jacksonville turnover. Other than that, the Jags didn’t give away much.
The X-factor, of course, is Minshew, who will make his second career start. On paper, Minshew only led the Jacksonville offense to 12 points last week. But he’s looked sharp early in his career. Minshew seems to have a good connection with Chris Conley and DJ Chark, who have been reliable receivers for the Jags. Neither is an elite playmaker, but the pair is helping give Jacksonville a proper passing attack so they don’t have to rely too much on Leonard Fournette.
To be fair, the Tennessee defense is no pushover, so I don’t expect Minshew to light up the scoreboard. But the Titans did allow three touchdown passes by Jacoby Brissett last week. They’ve also been a little vulnerable against the run early in the season, which could bode well for Jacksonville if they can get Fournette going.
Overall, I like the Jacksonville defense to have a good game against Mariota and company, giving the Jaguars a fighting chance. Offensively, the Jags will plug along with Fournette and I think Minshew will have his moments, ultimately doing enough to give Jacksonville a win they desperately need.