Offsides Week 11: Tennessee Titans

A weekly look at who the Jaguars are facing from the opponent’s sideline

The Jacksonville Jaguars stay at home in Week 11 for an AFC South Divisional matchup with the Tennessee Titans. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The season keeps on moving right along as we now enter Week 11 of the NFL season, and the Jaguars look to get back on track after an embarrassing loss at home last week to San Francisco 34-3.

The Jaguars are back at home this week and hope to put on a better performance much better at “The Bank” when their AFC South divisional rival Titans come to town on Sunday.

This will also be Jacksonville’s last divisional home game of the season.

Jacksonville has struggled this season at home. The team is 1-3 at home, and all of the Jaguars worst performances this year have happened inside EverBank Stadium.

But as it stands, everything is still right in front of the Jaguars. Jacksonville is 6-3 on the year and currently sits atop the AFC South, but they are only one game ahead of Houston who they still have to play again.

Jacksonville wants to put last week’s loss against the 49ers behind it and focus on what’s ahead. And this week, the Jaguars focus is on the Titans.

The Titans are currently 3-6 and sit in last place in the division. Tennessee is also coming off of a loss this past week against Tampa Bay 20-6.

The last time these two teams faced off against each other, it was high stakes. The Jaguars came out on top 20-16 in Week 18 last season. Jacksonville’s Josh Allen returned a fumble for a touchdown with less than three minutes left to seal the game.

Sunday’s matchup will be the 57th time the two teams have gone up against each other. The Jaguars have actually faced the Titans more than any other NFL franchise.

The two teams are in opposite positions compared to last year’s AFC South standings.

After 10 games last season, Tennessee was 6-3 and Jacksonville was 3-7. Well, we all know how that season ended. The Titans collapsed in December and January while the Jaguars won the rest of their remaining games, so anything is possible the rest of the way.

The Titans are still being led by head coach Mike Vrabel, who is in his sixth year with the team.

At the quarterback position, Tennessee began the year with veteran Ryan Tannehill but after an ankle injury in Week 6, the Titans would go in a different direction.

In Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee started rookie quarterback Will Levis out of Kentucky and he did not disappoint.

Levis led the Titans to a 28-23 win against Atlanta in his pro debut, passing for 238 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those scores went to top wideout Deandre Hopkins.

Since then, Levis has come back down to earth, and the Titans have lost back-to-back games.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis looks to throw the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In the Titans’ most recent loss to the Buccaneers, Levis went 19 of 39 for 199 yards and an interception. He was also sacked four times and hit another 13 times.

Levis has taken a beating so far this season. Even though he has only played in three games, Levis is 15th in the league in quarterback hits with 25.

Vrabel spoke earlier in the week, praising Levis’ toughness against Tampa Bay and talking about what the team has to do help him.

“We believe in Will’s toughness,” Vrabel said. “And we also believe we don’t need to challenge it as much as we have. We have to continue to protect him, and develop him, and have him help us.”

Levis is facing pressure 38% of the time he drops back, but he says it’s his mindset that allows him to instill confidence in himself and his offensive line.

“Just keeping your wits about you, staying within the gameplan,” Levis said. “You can’t let some of those factors determine how you’re going to think about a play or your process. Obviously, there are sometimes where there are answers that you can turn to if there’s a pressure, whether we’re not picking up or it is coming a little faster. Just keeping your wits about you and keep instilling confidence in the guys up front.”

On Wednesday, Levis spoke to the media about the upcoming matchup against Jacksonville.

“It’s a big one, we talked today that it’s only our second division game, and we still have all these division games left,” Levis said. “As we see it, it’s still wide open. We have to take it one day, one game at a time.”

Levis hasn’t been in the league long, but he has already felt the different energy that comes when taking on divisional opponents.

“It just seems like, for those division games, you have to step up and bring your best to the table or you’re going to get kicked in the mouth,” Levis said.

Levis also talked about being a better leader on the team to help bring them along.

“I have to be a leader. My leadership role has to step up,” he said. ”I have to instill confidence in these guys, regardless of who it is, whatever five is out there, that they know I have my full trust in them.”

At the running back position, Tennessee still has Yulee’s own Derrick Henry leading the way in the backfield. And while he may not be the player he was in year’s past, he is still ranked second in the league in rushing with 625 yards.

Henry spoke with the media on Thursday about coming back home for this game.

“It’s always fun to be able to go home and play in front of your family – it ain’t fun getting tickets,” Henry said. “But it’s always fun to be able to go back home and play against the team you grew up watching.”

Henry has played very well against Jacksonville throughout his career, look no further than the famous 99-yard touchdown where he bullied the Jaguars defense all the way down the sideline.

And the numbers don’t lie. In 13 career games against Jacksonville, Henry has 1,373 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. That is the most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any player versus the Jaguars all-time.

In two of those games, Henry went over 200 yards rushing and scored at least two touchdowns.

Last week, Henry carried the ball just 11 times for 24 yards. For the most part, if the Titans are playing well and winning games, Henry is much more involved in the offense.

Tennessee is at a critical point in their season and Henry knows the time to start playing better is now.

“We can only talk so much,” Henry said. “We’ve got to go out and do. I think we’re all to that point. The talking is over with. We’ve got to go out and do. It’s the only way to win in this league.”

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Trying to slow Henry down on the ground is definitely a challenge the Jaguars defense is looking forward to. Jacksonville has been an elite run-stopping unit on defense this season and they hope to continue that same play on Sunday against the Titans.

Defensively, the Titans are a solid unit. They currently rank 10th in the NFL, giving up just 20 points a game to opponents.

The Titans “big” free agent signing this offseason was for pass rusher Arden Key, who came from Jacksonville after paying a critical role along their defensive front last season. Key signed with the Titans on a three-year deal after saying he felt the Jaguars “disrespected him.” So, he will definitely be playing with a little bit of extra motivation.

“It’s going to be mixed emotions,” Key said. “A lot of those guys I still talk to, a lot of those coaches I still talk to. It’s going to be good to see their faces, to shake their hands pregame. But when the game starts, hopefully we can go out there and get this dub.”

The Tennessee defense is also very good in the red zone. They rank as the second-best team when they are backed up inside their own 20, allowing touchdowns on only 34.2% of trips.

The Jaguars have had a tough time in the red zone this year, especially when playing at home. They know they will need to score touchdowns if they want to get back on track with a win on Sunday.

While Jacksonville’s struggles have come at home, the Titans have struggled in games on the road.

Jacksonville is 5-0 in road games this year while Tennessee is 0-6 on the road, so something has to give. Either the Jaguars figure it out and come away with a win or the Titans leave Duval County with their first road victory of the season.

Vrabel is looking forward to the opportunity to take on Jacksonville.

“It’s about one game,” Vrabel said. “It’s about focusing on this week. It is not about our record, and things like that, because that’s not going to help, that’s not going to change. So, we have to change behavior. We’ve talked about the only day that matters is the test day... Until we go out and show it, it’s all that matters. So it is a great opportunity.”

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