Game Preview: Jaguars at Titans

For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars open up against the Tennessee Titans. After being a significant favorite in last season's season opener, the Jaguars laid an egg and lost to a very game Titans squad, 13-10.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
Sunday, September 7, 2008, 1:00 p.m.
LP Field, Nashville, TN
2007 records:
Jacksonville- 12-6, Tennessee- 10-7

Series history:
Tennessee leads 14-12 (regular season), Tennessee won the only playoff meeting.

Last season: Teams split.

Tennessee offense (2007 stats) 21st overall (27th passing, 5th rushing); Scoring- 22nd- 18.8 ppg. vs. Jacksonville defense 12th overall (15th passing, 11th rushing); Scoring- 10th- 19.0 ppg.

The Titans offense is predicated on a strong running game with some timely play-action passing when everything is going well. Although their offensive line is one of the league's best, there are major questions at quarterback. Vince Young is a fantastic athlete and he must be accounted for in the running game, but he may be the most inaccurate starting quarterback in the NFL. Last season, Young threw just 9 TD passes and 17 INT's, and was even worse in the preseason as he completed just 45.3% of his passes.

Tennessee has a wealth of talent at running back with 1100 yard rusher LenDale White, who is a powerful, yet nimble back that can run between the tackles; First-round pick Chris Johnson has blazing speed, and some experts compare his abilities to Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook; Former second-round pick Chris Henry has struggled since coming into the league, but he has speed and power.

The passing game is where it gets dicey for the Titans. We discussed Vince Young's issues, but part of those may be due to the lack of talent at wide receiver. Justin Gage may be the Titans best returning wide receiver along with Justin McCareins, and Brandon Jones. The Titans did get Young help at tight end by signing former Falcons Pro Bowler Alge Crumpler, but his best years may be behind him.

Best offensive matchup for Tennessee: Titans interior offensive line vs. Jaguars interior defensive line- Tennessee had great success in last season's opener running right up the middle against the Jaguars, as their offensive line dominated. It's certain that they will try that same formula early on.

Best defensive matchup for Jacksonville: Jaguars secondary vs. Titans wide receivers- Jacksonville's secondary should be one of the elite units in the NFL, and Tennessee receiving corps is amongst the league's worst. There shouldn't be many open receivers for Vince Young.

Jacksonville offense 7th overall (17th passing, 2nd rushing); Scoring- 6th, 25.7 ppg. vs. Tennessee defense 5th overall (10th passing, 5th rushing); Scoring- 8th- 18.6 ppg.

Strength vs. strength, the Jaguars excel at running the football and the Titans made the playoffs last season mostly on their ability to stop the run. Jacksonville has one of the best one-two punches at running back in the entire league with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and a strong offensive line to run behind. Tennessee has the best defensive tackle in the AFC in Albert Haynesworth, and when he plays they are an elite defense.

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard is coming off a career year, as he finished third in the NFL in passer rating (102.2). Garrard has more weapons this season, although his biggest weapon, WR Jerry Porter likely won't play. Garrard still has Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt, a motivated Matt Jones, Mike Walker, and speedster Troy Williamson. Tight end Marcedes Lewis appears poised for a big season, and his 6'7" frame will cause big matchup problems for opposing linebackers or safeties.

Tennessee has one of the best pass rushers in the game in Kyle Vanden Bosch, and his opposite bookend is former Titans great, Jevon Kearse. The team is high on rookie defensive end Jason Jones, and defensive tackle Tony Brown is better than many people think. Tennessee has big play linebacker Keith Bullock along with Ryan Fowler and former Indianapolis Colt, David Thornton. The Titans secondary is very solid, as cornerback Cortland Finnegan is a budding star and Nick Harper is above average. Safeties Chris Hope and Michael Griffin are hard hitters, but vulnerable to play-action.

Best offensive matchup for Jacksonville: Tight end Marcedes Lewis against any of the Titans linebackers. Lewis is a huge target with enough speed to get in the seam and he has great hands. He should exploit the middle of the football field.

Best defensive matchup for Tennessee: Kyle Vanden Bosch vs. either offensive tackle. Vanden Bosch is a premiere pass rusher and the Jaguars tackles will need help from a tight end or running back when the Titans end is lined up across from them.

Special Teams

Tennessee: PK Rod Bironas, P Craig Hentrich, LS Ken Amato, KOR Chris Henry, PR Cortland Finnegan

Jacksonville: PK Josh Scobee, P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew/Brian Witherspoon, PR Dennis Northcutt/Brian Witherspoon

Special teams advantage: Titans have the edge with Bironas and Hentrich over Scobee and Podlesh, but Jacksonville has the more explosive return game and better coverage units.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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