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Am I excited to back Titans third-string QB Josh Dobbs in the Tennessee Titans (7-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) winner-take-all showdown for the AFC South Saturday? No, I’m not.
But, Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel is phenomenal with extended rest and prep time. And the fact that Dobbs can throw a forward pass makes him an upgrade over Titans rookie QB Malik Willis.
Hell, Tennessee is 2-1 against the spread (ATS) with Willis as the starter including a cover in a 20-17 overtime road loss at the Kansas City Chiefs in primetime Week 9.
Last week, Tennessee lost 27-13 at home to the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football, barely losing ATS as 13.5-point underdogs on the closing line. The Titans were in position to cover but lost the fourth quarter 10-0.
They tied the Cowboys in yards per play (4.9-4.9) despite missing six starters. Judging by the mid-week practice reports from Tennessee, Vrabel was resting his guys in anticipation of this Week 18 elimination game.
The Jaguars have been dump-trucking teams. Jacksonville has won and covered five of the last six games. This includes victories over the Cowboys, Ravens and a 36-22 beatdown of the Titans in Tennessee in Week 14.
Betting Splits (DraftKings)
- Moneyline: Titans (+220), Jaguars (-260)
- ATS: TITANS +6.5 (-105), Jaguars -6.5 (-115)
- Total — 40 — Over: -110, Under: -110
For the record, I agree with Jacksonville being the favorite. The Jaguars handily wins the quarterback battle with Trevor Lawrence playing lights out and they are better by the numbers.
However, Jaguars -6.5 are too many points. Prior to their 20-16 Week 12 home loss to the Bengals, the Titans were 9-0 straight up (SU) and ATS with a +17.7 SU margin on extended rest since hiring Vrabel in 2018.
Furthermore, Tennessee is 3-0 SU (+9.7 SU margin) and ATS (+13.0 spread differential) as road underdogs in AFC South games over the past three seasons.
More importantly, the Titans had one of the best defenses in the NFL before getting decimated by injuries. Five defensive starters for Tennessee that missed last week are practicing including its two best defensive linemen.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Jacksonville’s offensive line has the fourth-biggest run blocking mismatch of Week 18. Tennessee’s doesn’t have it much easier.
That said, in Titans-Jaguars Week 14, Jacksonville rushed for just 60 yards as a team whereas Tennessee All-Pro RB Derrick Henry gained 121 rushing yards on 17 carries with 1 TD himself.
The Jaguars got a masterful performance from Lawrence and four Titans turnovers to key the victory. But, this is essentially a playoff game for Jacksonville and first-time QBs tend to struggle in playoff games.
So if Lawrence’s production dips a tad and/or Tennessee cleans up the mistakes, that Titans-Jaguars game could’ve gone another way. Tennessee had a 14-7 after the first quarter and moved the ball with ease vs. Jacksonville.
Also, the Jaguars have been more consistent lately but still make mistakes as a young team. Jacksonville’s offense ranks 26th in performance variance and the defense ranks 25th, according to Football Outsiders.
The Titans on the other hand have been here before and has more of an identity. Because of which, this is a Pros vs. Joe’s game in the betting market.
According to VSIN, more money at DraftKings Sportsbook is on Tennessee while more bets have been placed on Jacksonville.
Often, it can be wise to follow the money when it’s counter to the public because professional bettors wager a lot more cash than your average Joe.
My hope is money will flood on in the Jaguars closer to kickoff so the sportsbooks will “need” the Titans to cover since the House usually wins in this racket.
BET: Titans +6.5 (-115) at DraftKings Sportsbook
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