Glennon's Take: Five Key Questions Facing the Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The easiest way to the playoffs for the Titans is also the most direct: Beat Jacksonville on Sunday and the Titans won't have to worry about what happens elsewhere.

It will be no easy task for the Titans, who won at Jacksonville earlier this season. Tennessee last swept the Jaguars in 2008.

Here are five key questions facing the Titans as they ready for Sunday's contest:

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Is Derrick Henry ready to be a complete back? –** In the event DeMarco Murray (knee) doesn't play against Jacksonville, Henry will make the third start of his career.

We know Henry can run in the Titans' basic formation, evidenced by the 4.7 yards per game he's averaging this season. In fact, one of his best games of this season came against Jacksonville, when he carried 14 times for 92 yards and a touchdown.

But will Henry be effective running from the no-huddle formation, which the Titans have used frequently the last two weeks?

"We practice it weekly and (Henry) gets as many reps as anybody, as DeMarco," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "So we're very comfortable with (Henry) in it."

What about pass protection, which is one of the reasons Murray has seen considerably more playing time this season than Henry?

"He's gotten better (pass-blocking), there's no question," Mularkey said. "Obviously all the experience and the time, what a difference a year makes for him. He's much better than he was his rookie year.

"It's pretty overwhelming when you get into the protection schemes, especially when a defense goes substitute defense with ni and dimes. It gets complicated, but he's definitely improved from his first year to this one."

Henry's only played over 30 snaps once in the past nine weeks, but Sunday's game could provide him with a real opportunity to show his stuff.

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Can the Titans make the Jags one-dimensional? –** In the Titans win over Jacksonville earlier this season, they limited Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette to 40 yards on 14 carries, an average of less than three yards per carry.

It was the third-lowest output of the season for Fournette, who was the fourth overall pick of the draft.

Jacksonville's inability to get the ground game going forced the Jaguars to the air, which led to the Titans intercepting a pair of Blake Bortles passes and rolling to a 37-16 victory.

Stopping Jacksonville's running attack is no small task, as the Jaguars lead the league with an average of 145.3 rushing yards per game. But making Bortles throw is the way to beat the Jags. In Jacksonville's five losses this season, Bortles has been intercepted eight times.

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Can the Titans win a close one? –** Heading into their recent two-game trip out west, the Titans had been excellent in close contests over the past two seasons. They were 5-1 this year in games decided by seven points or less, 11-4 over the last two seasons under Mularkey as full-time head coach.

But the Titans have come up short in three straight close contests now – losing by five points to Arizona, two points to San Francisco and four points to the Los Angeles Rams. The Titans' offense faltered twice in the late going in those losses, while the defense came up short once.

Mularkey said he's seen a common thread in the three close losses.

"Yeah, there's a lot of plays that we've missed," Mularkey said. "We've had opportunities, we've had touchdowns, we've had interceptions dropped, we've had penalties at bad times. There's things that we can correct.

"We did a lot of good things in the (Rams) game, and I want to address it with our guys that there's just a number of plays that are keeping us from winning the close games like we have earlier in the year."

The last three Titans-Jaguars games have been lopsided affairs, but nine of the 10 contests before that were decided by one possession.

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Will the Jaguars rest some regulars in the season finale? –** The Jaguars weren't pleased with their performance in last Sunday's loss to San Francisco. Jacksonville doesn't want to go into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, and the Jaguars certainly don't want to get swept by the Titans – especially considering Tennessee could be a first-round playoff opponent.

So it doesn't sound as if the Jaguars will be coasting Sunday when they visit Nissan Stadium.

"Make no mistake about it so there's not a lot of talk about it during the week: We're going to play to win and we're going to do everything possible to win this game, period," Doug Marrone told Jaguars media in a conference call. "I'm not even thinking about what happens beyond that. That's the way we're going to go about our business this week."

Still, Ryan O'Halloran, the Florida Times-Union's veteran Jaguars beat writer, speculated that Jacksonville might slightly curtail some of the workload for veteran players – mentioning defensive lineman Calais Campbell, defensive lineman Malik Jackson and tight end Marcedes Lewis.

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What could be an "X" factor for the Titans on Sunday? –** The Titans haven't scored on a kick or punt return since 2012, but rookie Adoree Jackson has shown signs of taking a return all the way this season.

He had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against Seattle that was called back due to a penalty, and he returned a kick-off 57 yards last Sunday to set up a Titans touchdown against the Rams. Overall, Jackson's 23.1-yard kick-return average is seventh-best in the league.

In last Sunday's game against the Rams, the Titans' defense scored its first points of the season, which gave a boost to an offense that hasn't produced a lot of points recently.

Perhaps Jackson and the Titans' special teams will follow suit this week with a score, which would help Tennessee keep pace with a Jacksonville offense that's scored at least 30 points in four straight weeks.

-- Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.

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