The Jacksonville Jaguars return home looking for their straight second win, albeit in a less controversial fashion than last week, when they face the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
The Jaguars (3-6), enter a game out of first place in the AFC South after last Sunday's 22-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Jason Myers kicked a 53-yard field goal with no time remaining after Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was called for a facemask on the play before. A day later, the NFL said that officials had erred in failing to call a false start on the Jaguars and that the game should have ended there, with Baltimore the winner.
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Due to a scheduling quirk, Thursday night's game is just the second the Jaguars have played at EverBank Field since Sept. 20.
For the Titans (2-7), the matchup marks the head coaching return of Mike Mularkey to Jacksonville. The Tennessee interim head coach was fired in January 2013 after one season with the Jaguars in which he guided the team to a 2-14 record.
The Titans are 1-1 since Mularkey took over the head coaching duties for Ken Whisenhunt on Nov. 3. Tennessee lost to Carolina last week, 27-10.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Titans and Jaguars.
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1. Bring the blitz on Bortles
The Titans were able to sack Carolina quarterback Cam Newton five times last week. This week, they should continue to bring pressure against Blake Bortles, who has been sacked 28 times, tied for third most in the league. Bortles struggled playing against Dick LeBeau's defense last year when LeBeau was with the Steelers, throwing two interceptions, including one returned for touchdown. LeBeau's aggressive scheme may once again pose trouble for the young quarterback.
2. Rely on DGB
The Titans are extremely thin at receiver with Justin Hunter out for the season with a fractured ankle and Kendall Wright out with a sprained medial collateral ligament. That leaves Dorial Green-Beckham, Harry Douglas and Rico Richardson as Marcus Mariota's primary receivers. Green-Beckham, who had a career-high five catches for 77 yards in the win over New Orleans two weeks ago, was held without a catch against the Panthers. He may not be quite ready for a featured role, but injuries have left the Titans little choice. The rookie has the height and speed to present matchup problems for the Jacksonville defense and needs to see an increase in targets in this one.
3. Generate a running game
With the Titans hurting at receiver, the ability to run the ball the effectively will be at a premium. Tennessee managed just 64 yards on the ground in last week's loss to Carolina, with 24 of those yards coming from Mariota. Starter Antonio Andrews ran for just eight yards on 11 carries for a dismal 0.7 average. Mularkey dubbed the second-year player the team's workhorse back when he took over as head coach. Now, he needs to play like one. Andrews will face a challenge against a Jacksonville defense that is ranked sixth against the run.
1. Pick on the depleted Tennessee secondary
The Titans are hurting at cornerback, with starter Jason McCourty out for the year and fellow corners Perrish Cox and Blidi Wreh-Wilson dealing with hamstring injuries. That, combined with the fact the Jaguars have a pair of standout receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, each of whom has seven touchdown receptions this season, is reason enough to rely on the pass. Hurns is expected to play despite dealing with a sports hernia.
2. Key on Delanie Walker
With Tennessee's injury situation at receiver, Mariota is likely to look even more towards tight end Delanie Walker in the passing game. Walker is the team's leading receiver with 45 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns. If the Jacksonville defense can make Walker a non-factor, it will severely limit Mariota's options when throwing the ball.
3. Better execution from Bortles
The Jacksonville quarterback has improved dramatically over his rookie season, but has still displayed a tendency to make ill-timed mistakes. Bortles has thrown at least two touchdowns in five straight games, but has also thrown at least one interception in each of those games. He's also coming off one of his worst performances of the season, in which he completed just 48.9 percent of his passes. When Bortles is playing efficiently, making smart decisions with the football, the Jaguars offense can be very dangerous. When he isn't, winning becomes much more difficult.