Mariota needs to rise to the occasion

Titans Must Seize Playoff Opportunity Against Jaguars

The Tennessee Titans head into their showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars in need of victory to secure a playoff berth.

The Titans have lost their last three matches on the bounce to put their post-season hopes in jeopardy. Head coach Mike Mularkey could be coaching for his future due to the club’s late-season collapse, with speculation regarding his position rife.

Tennessee have not reached the playoffs since the 2008 season and their players will be under huge pressure to deliver by an expectant fanbase. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has struggled in his third season in the NFL, enduring the worst campaign of his fledgling career.

The 24-year-old was troubled by a knee injury during the early stages of the term. He has not recovered his rhythm since, becoming more of a detriment to his team than a positive with ball in hand.

Mariota produced a solid display against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago, only for the defense to collapse. However, he struggled immensely against the Los Angeles Rams last time out. The quarterback needs a strong performance against the Jaguars to guide his team over the line.

The Jaguars became the latest team to suffer at the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo last week. The 49ers took an early lead, and although Doug Marrone’s men battled back, mistakes by Blake Bortles allowed San Francisco to claim the win.

Jacksonville’s defeat ended their hopes of claiming a bye in the playoffs, meaning that they will be in action on wildcard weekend. Marrone may take the opportunity to rest his starters, which could play into the hands of the Titans. However, the Jags may be wary of allowing Tennessee too much leeway that could see them land a tougher opponent in their opening post-season match.

Tennessee Titans

Mariota needs to rise to the occasion

The Titans have endured a slump in form at the worst time of the campaign. They have not played complementary football – with both the offense and defense struggling at crucial moments. Mariota has not been the player he was in the 2016 season. The quarterback suffered an injury at the end of the last campaign and was dealt another blow earlier in the campaign.

Since then his form has tailed off desperately, including his disastrous four-interception performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mariota’s trademark in his breakout second year were his lack of turnovers. This term has been a stark contrast as he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. There remains a quality player inside the 24-year-old and his duel threat running downfield makes him a dangerous opponent. However, Mariota needs to find his best form in his final outing if the Titans are first going to make the playoffs and then make a surge.

The running game has not been effective for the Titans this term. DeMarco Murray has had his issues with injuries, while Derrick Henry has been under-utilised. The 23-year-old did have a good stretch of form after the club’s bye week, but in their last three matches he has not mustered over 25 yards in a single contest. It’s an important facet of Tennessee’s identity and should they find their form it could open up the offense.

Defensively the Titans have been consistent for the majority of the term. There only two outliers have been their heavy defeats to the Steelers and the Houston Texans. One criticism has been their performances in the big moments when they’ve failed to stop the 49ers and the Rams in back-to-back matches.  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has to find an answer to stop the Jaguars on Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Fournette can carry the Jags past Tennessee

The Jaguars have announced their intentions to play their key players from the off, despite having locked up the number three seed. Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette along with their defensive stars will play against the Titans, despite having the opportunity to rest up. There’s no guarantee of success in the playoffs by keeping your players fresh – so there’s merit to Marrone’s strategy.

However, Fournette has carried the load a great deal in his rookie season and it might behove the Jaguars to limit his action. The 22-year-old has enjoyed a strong first term in the NFL and was their offense in the opening weeks of the campaign. Injuries held him back during the middle of the season, while Marrone suspended him for a lack of discipline in week 15.

The running back has notched 971 rushing yards along with nine touchdowns – impressive figures for the rookie. Jacksonville will be able to lean on him in the post-season as his style of running will can be punishing for defenders late in the term. The form of Bortles has improved greatly since the start of the season. The quarterback was a detriment to his team in the early stages, but has rounded into a solid player. He still has a bad performance in him – as proven by his outing against the 49ers, throwing three interceptions. However, he could be a threat in the post-season.

Jacksonville have boasted the best defense in the NFL, although they conceded 44 points to the 49ers last week. They have rare talent at all three levels of the unit, with lockdown cornerbacks and the ability to pressure using four players. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue could be their ace players in the playoffs against quality offenses.

Betting Options

The Titans have to win this game and will be putting everything on the line. Mariota and company put forward an outstanding performance in week two of the season to ease to a comfortable win over their AFC South rivals. They will need to channel their pedigree of that day to secure their place in the post-season.

The Jaguars’ discipline has been poor in recent weeks and Mularkey’s men will have to play on that to achieve the victory. Mariota has the ability to cause the same problems that Garoppolo exposed last week in the 49ers’ win. Should he find his form on home soil then the Titans will be booking their place in the post-season.

Due to the match being at Nissan Stadium, Tennessee should be able to close out the win at odds of -149  with BetOnline. The Titans won by 21 points when the teams met back in September, but both sides have changed since then. If Tennessee get over the line it will not be a convincing victory. Therefore take the +2.5 spread for the Jaguars at odds of +117  with 888Sport. The Titans’ offense has been up-and-down, but since they need to throw everything out there back them to score over 22.5 with Betway at -115 .

Tips Summary

Tennessee Titans To Beat Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -149

Take +2.5 Spread Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: +117

Tennessee Titans To Score Over 22.5 Points
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -115

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