The Jaguars open up the regular season against their most hated rival, the Tennessee Titans. This is the first time that the Jaguars have opened up with the Titans, since the Tennessee franchise moved from Houston. The Jaguars have the best winning percentage in the NFL in opening day games, as they have a 9-3 record (.750 winning percentage). The Titans have an overall lead in the series, 13-11, but the Jaguars have won three out of the last four by a combined score of 125-72.
Five Most Important Things for the Jaguars
1. Remember the Titans. Not the movie, the team who kept the Jaguars out of the playoffs. This is more of a message for David Garrard, but the game on December 17th was the beginning of the end for the 2006 Jaguars. Garrard is now the starter, and has a golden opportunity to put behind him one of the worst games that any NFL quarterback has ever had.
What to look for:
2. Attack Early. The Titans are going to load up the box to stop the run, especially early on. The Jaguars must attack down field to loosen up an improved Titans defense. If Garrard is really the guy, they’ll have no problem opening up the playbook.
3. Stop the Titans rushing attack. The Titans finished fifth in the NFL in rushing in 2006, and they will try to run the ball to take pressure off their inexperienced quarterback. If the Jaguars defense can shut down the run, it is unlikely that the Titans receivers will outplay the Jaguars secondary.
4. Special teams must be a weapon, not a weakness. In 2006, special teams was pretty much a disaster for the Jaguars. Whenever they allowed a big play, whether it be a big return, blocked punt, or fumble, the Jaguars lost. They have a new cast of characters on special teams and they must do something positive.
5. Treat it like a playoff game. If the Jaguars win this game they are 1-0, but if they lose, it will be a bad scene in Jacksonville. Ticket sales are slow right now, and if the team starts off with a loss, things will get much worse. There is also a ton of second guessing regarding head coach Jack Del Rio’s decision on the quarterback. If Garrard lays an egg against a team he should beat (again), that will justify a lot of the second guessing.
1. Look for an extra motivated Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars second-year running back plays the game with a chip on his shoulder most of the time, but on opening day he’s playing against the guy who took his Rookie of the Year award. Vince Young benefitted from the hype machine which is ESPN to get all kind of postseason honors with some pretty average to poor numbers. Jones-Drew’s 16 touchdowns was seeming overlooked by many due to the hype of Young and Reggie Bush.
Prediction: David Garrard will throw the ball early, and the Jaguars will run the ball late. The Titans offense will struggle mightily against the Jaguars defense, and Garrard will make some mistakes, but get away with them.
2. Look for a big day by Mike Peterson. Peterson has been an animal in preseason this year, and he’s chomping at the bit to get an opportunity in a real game. Mike Peterson will show why he’s one of the best linebackers in the NFL on Sunday.
3. Look at the Jaguars pass protection on the right side of the line. We are basically talking about Tony Pashos. Pashos was the Jaguars high-priced free agent grab on the first day of the open market, and he was unimpressive in the preseason. Pashos will line up against pass rushing extrodinaire, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and if he continues to play poorly, the Jaguars will have some questions to answer about this signing.
4. Look for the Jaguars to keep Vince Young in the pocket. Don’t expect to see many blitzes from the outside, the Jaguars will force Young to beat them with his arm, not his legs. Look for the Titans to employ a similar strategy against David Garrard and the Jaguars.
5. Look for the Titans to pack it in during the second half. September in Florida isn’t friendly to opposing teams. In the last two years, Jaguars opponents have more or less, mailed it in during the second half of openers. It is expected to be 94 degrees at kickoff, and even though the Titans are a southern team, they will likely not be prepared for this level of heat and humidity.
Final score: Jaguars 27, Titans 7