Jaguars vs. Titans 2013 game preview: Will Jacksonville rebound after a bye?

The Jaguars are still in search of their first win of the season, while the Titans have played their way into the playoff picture. Can Tennessee avoid a letdown and move above .500?

Despite a three-game losing streak earlier in the season, the Tennessee Titans are in the thick of the AFC playoff race. The Titans have a favorable stretch of schedule upcoming, beginning this week with a home game against the 0-8 Jaguars.

The Titans snapped their losing streak last week with a 28-21 win against St. Louis. The win moved Tennessee back to .500 on the season and just behind the 5-4 Jets for the final wild card slot. The Titans have played well most of this season, but ran into a brutal stretch of schedule against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco.

Jacksonville should be fresh off a bye week, but the Jaguars are still searching for ways to be competitive. They have struggled to even challenge teams this year, and their minus-178 point differential is more than double the second-worst team.

On paper, Sunday's game shouldn't be much of a contest, but the teams have been fairly well-matched in recent seasons, splitting their last eight meetings.

Meet the Titans

Five of Tennessee's first seven opponents are .500 or better, including Kansas City and Seattle, who have the two best records in the NFL. The Titans were able to survive the hardest part of the schedule and are positioned for a playoff push. If Tennessee is going to make a run, however, it will need to win at home and in games against far lesser teams, beginning on Sunday.

Offensively the Titans are still a work in progress with Jake Locker recently returning from injury. The good news for Tennessee is Chris Johnson is coming off his best game of the season. Johnson ran for 150 yards last week, consistently gashing the Rams for chucks of yardage. If he can maintain that success, Tennessee may be the favorite to claim the final AFC wild card spot.

Meet the Jaguars

Not much has gone right for the Jaguars this season. Already facing a talent deficit, Jacksonville has been hit hard by injuries. The Jaguars will also be without their best player for the rest of the season with wide receiver Justin Blackmon suspended after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

There is an old adage that football teams win consistently by stopping the run and running the football well. If that is true, it goes a long way to explaining the issues the Jaguars have had. They are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging just 66.4 YPG. On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars are dead last in stopping the run, allowing 161.8 YPG. Jacksonville needs to improve in a lot of ways, but the ground game on both sides of the ball may be the areas which need the most work.

Local Takes: Tennessee

The Titans came away with the win last week, but that doesn't mean there weren't questions. Music City Miracles took a closer look at a few of the more perplexing issues:

Why can the Titans not run block and pass protect well in the same game. Is this an either/or thing? The year before last, the line could pass protect all day, but they couldn't create a gap for a gnat to get through. In yesterdays game we saw the exact opposite.

Local Takes: Jacksonville

Coming off a bye week, the Jaguars had an opportunity to fix some issues. Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country examined what changes the team may make against Tennessee:

Bradley talked once again about making things simple, and it's possible they just added too much to a young team too quickly after the Broncos game. With now two weeks to self evaluate and prepare for the Tennessee Titans, it makes me wonder if we'll see more from the defense like we saw much of the first half, rather than the past two games.

But then again, there's only so much you can do with the talent you have.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Music City Miracles and Big Cat Country, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@TitansMCM

@BigCatCountry

@jwyattsports -- Titans beat writer

@HaysCarlyon -- Jaguars beat writer

Prediction

Tennessee appears to be a legitimate playoff contender, while the Jaguars fans are more focused on the standings for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Titans are the more talented team and have the benefit of playing at home, so it's hard to imagine them losing this game.

Pick: Tennessee 34-14

Odds

The Titans opened as a 12-point favorite, according to OddsShark.com. The line has since shifted even more in Tennessee's direction, and some oddsmakers have the Titans favored by 13 points.

Next Week

Week 11: Jacksonville vs. Arizona -- 1 p.m. ET

Week 11: Tennessee vs. Indianapolis -- 8:25 p.m.

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