By Stephen Dolan
The AFC South is wide open in every sense of the phrase. The Jaguars, sitting at 3-6, are just one game back of the division-leading Colts and the Titans, at 2-7 on the year, are somehow only two games out of the division lead. Thursday Night Football, which features two teams with five combined wins in the middle of November, surprisingly has playoff implications for both teams and we have your fantasy forecast for the matchup.
Play: Marcus Mariota (vs. JAC)
Mariota is certainly living up to the hype that made him the second overall selection in May’s draft, completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,795 yards, 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions in seven games this season. He suffered a knee injury against the Dolphins on October 18 and bounced back with a strong performance against the Saints on November 8. Mariota put together a not-so-strong performance in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, throwing for just 185 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, but he faces a Jaguars pass defense that has allowed 268 pass yards per game, ranking 24th in the league. Play Mariota.
Pass: Blake Bortles (vs. TEN)
Bortles has taken a step forward in his second season in Jacksonville. He has thrown for 2,381 yards and 19 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions on the season but still is struggling with his consistency at times completing just 55.3 percent of his passes on the season. Bortles completed just 48.9 percent of his passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 22-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. There is a tall task on Thursday night for Bortles as he faces a Titans pass defense that ranks third in the NFL allowing just 214 pass yards per game.
Play: T.J. Yeldon (vs. TEN)
Yeldon is another impressive rookie in this game as the second-round pick out of Alabama has come in and improved the Jaguars rushing attack. He has posted 531 yards on 133 carries and a touchdown while also catching 24 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown on the year. Yeldon has topped 61 rushing yards in four of his last five games, including two performances of over 100 yards. He rushed 18 times for 61 yards on Sunday and will get an easy task on Thursday against the league’s 21st-ranked run defense.
Pass: Antonio Andrews (vs. JAC)
Andrews has overtaken Bishop Sankey as the feature back in the Tennessee offense. He strung together some solid performances, including rushing 19 times for 88 yards in a win over the Saints on November 8. However, Andrews was completely shut down on Sunday against Carolina, rushing 11 times for a measly eight yards. It won’t be easy on Sunday facing a Jacksonville defense that ranks sixth in the NFL allowing 93.7 rushing yards per game.
Play: Allen Robinson (vs. TEN)
Robinson has emerged as one of the better wide receivers in the league this season and has shown the ability to go up and catch the ball which he unveiled regularly at Penn State. His 758 receiving yards are good for ninth in the NFL while his seven touchdowns are tied for fourth in the league. He has caught at least one touchdown in four of his last five games and the only game in which he didn’t find the end zone he ended up with 121 receiving yards. Robinson is facing a tough Tennessee pass defense but his play-making ability has come through in a big way this season. Play Robinson.
Pass: Dorial Green-Beckham (vs. JAC)
Green-Beckham will be thrown into the spotlight in the Titans offense thanks to a season-ending injury to receiver Justin Hunter and an injury to wide receiver Kendall Wright, which may keep him out Thursday against Jacksonville. Green-Beckham had a relatively quiet season until breaking out against New Orleans catching five of his 10 targets for 77 yards. He was neutralized last week against the Panthers and inconsistencies make him a risky play this week. Pass on Green-Beckham.
Play: Delanie Walker (vs. JAC)
Walker is the Titans’ leading receiver and it isn’t even close. He has hauled in 45 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Walker is a more effective receiver with Mariota under center and that is exactly what he will get on Thursday night. He is coming off a down game against the Panthers catching a season-low three passes for 52 yards. Walker gets a much easier matchup on Thursday against the 24th-ranked Jaguars pass defense.
Pass: Julius Thomas (vs. TEN)
Thomas has been dealing with injuries for much of the season. Thomas’ first season in Jacksonville has been totally different than his last two in Denver when he pulled in 12 touchdowns in each of the last two years. His best performance in 2015 came on October 18 when he caught seven passes for 78 yards and his only touchdown of the season. Thomas is coming off of a two-catch, 23-yard game against Carolina and Tennessee poses a tough task in the passing game. Pass on Thomas this week.
Play: Ryan Succop (vs. JAC)
Pass: Jason Myers (vs. TEN)
Steve Dolan is an MBA student at Villanova University and a graduate of the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University. Steve co-founded Whiz Wit Sports, a Philadelphia-centric sports blog, in March 2011 growing the site to win PHL 17’s Best Local Blogger on the Philly Hot List in 2013.