NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been under scrutiny in recent weeks, and he understands why. In the team's last two games – both losses – Tannehill has thrown five interceptions and just two touchdown passes. His passer rating the past two weeks: 58.4 (vs Houston) and 60.2 (vs New England). Tannehill, who has 14 touchdowns vs 13 interceptions on the season, has vowed to settle down and play better, and Sunday provides a chance for him to get back on track. The Jaguars have given up a lot of yards, and points, and they've intercepted just five passes in 12 games.
Getting receiver Julio Jones back on the field could go a long way in giving Tannehill, and the offense, a boost. Jones, sidelined the last three weeks with a hamstring injury, returned to practice this week. The Titans activated Jones and rookie receiver Racey McMath from Injured Reserve on Saturday, paving the way for their return. The hope is Jones will make a big difference in the offense. But other receivers, like Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Cody Hollister, Chester Rogers and McMath, will also need to step up and be consistent as well, because A.J. Brown is still a few weeks away from being able to play.
One positive development coming out of the Patriots game was the success of the run game, as running backs Dontrell Hilliard (131) and D'Onte Foreman (109) both ran for career-highs against the Patriots, and they were part of a 270-yard rushing attack in that game. With running back Jeremy McNichols back at practice after missing the past two games, the Titans could have another option when they run it against a Jacksonville defense that's ranked 21st in rushing yards allowed per game.
During the team's six-game winning streak, the Titans did a nice job protecting the football while also forcing turnovers. But things have taken a bad turn in the takeaway/giveaway category of late, and it's one of the biggest reasons the Titans are on a two-game skid. The Titans have turned the ball over nine times in the past two games, without creating a turnover. This needs to flip back into a positive, of course, as the Titans are now a minus-7 in the takeaway/giveaway category. The Jaguars have been even more dreadful here – they're a minus-15 (6/21).
The Titans let a bad team – the Texans – jump ahead of them back on November 21. It came back to bite them, as they couldn't rally from a deficit, and lost. Way back on October 3, they gave a subpar Jets team reason to believe with mistakes, and that also ended up costing them as well. On Sunday, against a 2-10 Jaguars team that's struggled mightily early in games (they've been outscored 85-32 in the 1st quarter, and 174-92 in the first half), the Titans need to take control early. It would allow them to run the football, and get after Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a pass rush.
Stop the Run
Lawrence had some success against the Titans back in Week 5, as he threw for 273 yards and a touchdown. But the biggest issue on defense that game was stopping the run. Defensive coordinator Shane Bowen acknowledged the Titans had their worst tackling game back on October 10 at Jacksonville, when Jaguars running back James Robinson ran for 149 yards and a touchdown. Robinson busted loose for a 58-yard run in that contest. The Titans need to tackle well, and put the Jaguars in 3rd and long situations.