Titans vs. Jaguars: 3 things to know about Sunday’s divisional showdown

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Jacksonville came oh-so-close to getting its first win of the season in Week 4. Facing the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, the Jaguars never trailed until the clock hit zero. Bengals kicker Evan McPherson drilled the second game-winner of his rookie season, and the Jags fell to 0-4.

Things went from bad to worse this week, as the video of coach Urban Meyer at an Ohio bar that went viral has served as quite a distraction and resulted in the cancellation of team meetings on Tuesday.

No team in the league could use a win right now more than Jacksonville, but getting that victory won’t be easy. It hosts division rival Tennessee this week, which currently stands atop the AFC South standings. The Titans are 2-2 and still seem to be in the best shape of the teams that occupy the only NFL division in which no team has a positive point differential.

But they’ve had a disappointing start to the season, and getting their first win against this team could work wonders to ease the problems in Jacksonville.

Here are three things to know about this game.

The Jaguars will try to go against the grain of recent history

Dec 13, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson (45)covered by Tennessee Titans cornerback Chris Jackson (35) puts pressure on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans have been a bit of a thorn in the side of the Jaguars since they moved from Houston to Nashville and dropped the moniker “Oilers.” In 1999, just their second season under the new name, they gave the Jags their only three losses, including one in the AFC Championship Game.

Over the last few seasons, Tennessee has proved to be similarly tricky. Even in 2017, arguably Jacksonville’s best season since that 1999 run, it lost twice to the Titans.

Since the conclusion of the 2016 season, the Jags have just one win in their last eight tries against the Titans. That victory came with Gardner Minshew II at quarterback in 2019. The Jaguars gave Tennessee a good game last season in the September matchup in Nashville, falling 33-30, but they were blown out 31-10 in their last outing against them in December.

If Jacksonville wants to avoid an 0-5 start, it will not have recent history on its side.

The Jags will try to overcome the Meyer distraction

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Even disregarding the contents of the viral video(s), Meyer’s decision to not fly back on the team plane and later become a distraction because of it cannot have done much to earn him the benefit of the doubt from the locker room.

Still, there’s a lot of football to be played this season, and the challenge for Jacksonville now becomes moving on from this. According to the Associated Press’ Mark Long, Meyer said Tuesday that the ownership of the team is with the players.

“I don’t believe that’s in my court,” he said. “The leaders on the team are going to make that decision. It depends on how much trust you have built up with them, how we structure everything this week and focus on winning that game. I’m going to be extremely clear as I can; our staff is working their tails off. But you know as well as I do that the ownership of this team is with the players.”

That quote from a coach whose week has been plagued by scandal may not inspire a lot of confidence in an 0-4 team that, while improving, seems destined for another top-five pick. But it will have to do as Jacksonville looks to end a three-game losing streak to Tennessee.

Derrick Henry has his sights set on a third-straight rushing title

Nov 24, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) pushes forward against Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) for a first down during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Since drafting the former Heisman winner in the second round back in 2016, the Titans have been one of the league’s best rushing teams, and Henry has been especially exceptional against the Jags throughout his career. He has been the NFL’s leading rusher the last two years, and the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year is well on his way to a third straight.

He currently has 510 yards on 113 carries through just four games, and that’s over 100 yards more than second-leading rusher Nick Chubb has to this point.

Jacksonville has actually had some success stopping the run this season, ranking near the middle of the league in that regard. But this will be its toughest challenge yet, and if Henry can do what he has done to this team in the past, it could be a long afternoon at TIAA Bank Field.

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