By Shawn Lealos
The Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars play in what might end up as the lowest rated Thursday Night Football game of the 2015 NFL season. The Jaguars are coming off a huge win against the Baltimore Ravens as they continue to try to turn their franchise around, while the Titans were blown out by the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Now, the two teams with a combined five wins on the season head into prime time for this week’s big game.
The Growth of the Jacksonville Jaguars
While they only have three wins this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been surprisingly competitive. They opened the season by losing to the Carolina Panthers and then lost in week three to the New England Patriots, two of the NFL’s remaining undefeated teams. Eliminate those two games, and the Jags are 3-4 with losses to the Colts, Buccaneers, Texans and Jets. Along the way, they beat the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens. Jacksonville finished the last three seasons with three, four, and two wins. They will win more than four games this season and that is a step in the right direction.
Tennessee Titans Struggling to Find Identity
When the 2014 NFL season ended, the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied for the worst record in the NFL. Each team drafted a new franchise quarterback and hoped for the best. The Buccaneers have won four games and just beat the Dallas Cowboys while the Titans are 2-7 and fired their head coach. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has struggled with injuries and his receivers are banged up too. Dick LeBeau joined his friend Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee this season to help turn the defense around, and with Whisenhunt gone, things will undergo a major transformation at season’s end.
A Tale of Two Quarterbacks
Marcus Mariota will be a good quarterback in the NFL. He didn’t play well on Sunday against Carolina, where he completed 16-of-24 passes for only 185 yards and an interception. On the season, he has a nice 98.3 rating with 1,785 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. However, he has also fumbled the ball seven times and has a lot to learn about the NFL, and will likely have a brand new system to learn next year. On the other side of the field is a quarterback that was called one of the worst in the NFL last year. This year, he has an 81.0 rating, on 2,381 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Somehow, Blake Bortles has come into his own and is one reason that the Jags are competing this season.
Injuries Put the Game in Question
The game between the Titans and Jaguars was never going to draw a lot of fans, but things look bad right now thanks to injuries. The Titans’ number one receiver, Kendall Wright, was hurt on Sunday and now they have also lost Justin Hunter for the season to an ankle injury. That leaves Harry Douglas as the only real quality receiver left healthy. Tennessee also has no idea who their starting running back should be, as Antonio Andrews has taken Bishop Sankey’s job, but struggled mightily on Sunday. On the Jacksonville side of the field, starting running back T.J. Yeldon was hurt on Sunday, and without their top running back, they will struggle to move the ball. Also hurt is wide receiver Allen Hurns, who has a sports hernia. With so many injuries, and a lackluster record on top of that, this is a game that might be a struggle on both sides of the field.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.