Thursday Night Football
Jacksonville @ Tennessee
Vegas Projected Score: Titans 23.5, Jaguars 20
DeMarco Murray enters Week 8 with touch counts of 21, 27, 32, 21, 28 over his last five games and seven touchdowns in seven weeks. He handled a whopping 96% of the Titans’ Week 7 snaps. Although Jacksonville has allowed just one enemy back to reach 70 rushing yards so far – Melvin Gordon, 24-102-1 in Week 2 – Gus Bradley’s unit ranks a lowly 24th in run-defense DVOA and has yet to face a runner of Murray’s caliber. The Jags also lost run-plugging NT Roy Miller (Achilles’) for the season last week. A home-favorite running back logging elite workhorse usage on a run-dominated team, Murray is a top-three RB1 play in this unimposing matchup. … The outlook is shakier for Marcus Mariota, whose on-field play hasn’t aligned with his fantasy results recently. Although he has emerged from consecutive dates with Miami, Cleveland, and Indianapolis with QB3, QB5, and QB13 finishes, Mariota’s ball placement and decision making have been inconsistent and he has continued to look uncomfortable in Tennessee’s offense, frequently sailing throws dangerously high into the air off his back foot. The Jaguars rank No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA and have allowed just 1-of-6 quarterbacks they’ve faced to reach 250 passing yards (Brian Hoyer, 302 in Week 6). The good news is Jacksonville struggles to generate pressure, ranking 29th in quarterback hits (25) and 21st in sacks (13). Always a threat to overcome low passing totals with playmaking ability, I’m viewing Mariota as a serviceable QB1 play with six teams on bye.
Mariota's target distribution with Delanie Walker in the lineup this season: Tajae Sharpe 38; Walker 37; Murray 29; Rishard Matthews 26; Andre Johnson 20; Kendall Wright 17. … Sharpe has been held under 60 yards in six straight games and is scoreless on the year. He is also the Titans’ wideout likeliest to draw shadow coverage from Jaguars top CB Jalen Ramsey, who shut down Amari Cooper (4-29-0) in Week 7. … Jacksonville held Packers tight ends to 2-29-0 in Week 1, Chargers tight ends to 3-15-1 in Week 2, Ravens tight ends to 6-42-0 in Week 3, Colts tight ends to 3-26-0 in Week 4, Bears tight ends to 6-36-0 in Week 6, and Raiders tight ends to 2-18-0 in Week 7. Keyed by ultra-athletic WLB Telvin Smith, the Jags posed a legitimately daunting matchup for enemy tight ends. While Walker’s draw obviously isn’t ideal, he has at least eight targets in three of his last four games and remains an every-week starter in season-long leagues. … Matthews (66%) and Wright (50%) stepped forward as the Titans’ Nos. 2 and 3 receivers in last week’s loss to the Colts, while Johnson (34%) took a deserved backseat. Still rotational wideouts on a run-first team, Matthews and Wright are low-floor WR4/flex investments in fantasy leagues.
Although a slumping Titans pass defense has yielded consecutive top-ten fantasy quarterback finishes to Cody Kessler (QB9) and Andrew Luck (QB1) while surrendering over 330 passing yards in both games, Blake Bortles has failed to earn QB1 consideration by finishing above the weekly QB15 in just 1-of-6 games and playing poorly on the field in 6-of-6 starts. In back-to-back seemingly plus draws against the Bears and Raiders, Bortles has flopped with QB21 and QB18 weekly finishes. Bortles has committed 11 turnovers in six starts and is an appealing target for Tennessee’s fantasy D/ST. Titans DC Dick LeBeau’s unit is tied for third in the NFL in sacks (20) and ranks fifth in quarterback hits (45). In road games, Bortles has a 2-14 career record and averages 3.9 sacks taken per game. … Jacksonville’s backfield remained a value-draining timeshare in last week’s loss to Oakland. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory each handled seven touches against the Raiders, with Yeldon playing 57% of the snaps and Ivory 40%. Ivory has been the Jaguars’ preferred goal-line option and also has six passing-game targets to Yeldon’s four over the last two weeks, and would be the slightly better bet for truly desperate fantasy owners. Ideally, this is a situation to avoid. Ivory’s touch totals are 13, 8, 13, 7 through four games as a Jaguar.
Bortles’ targets since the Jaguars’ Week 5 bye: Allen Hurns 18; Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee 14; Julius Thomas 11; Ivory 6; Yeldon and Marcedes Lewis 4. … While their quarterback’s poor play has torpedoed Jaguars receiving production, Hurns, Robinson, and Lee have appealing individual draws against a Titans defense that’s been smoked by T.Y. Hilton (7-133-1), Terrelle Pryor (9-75-2), Will Fuller (7-81-1), Michael Crabtree (8-102), Marvin Jones (8-118), and Stefon Diggs (7-103). Coming off a quiet breakout game against Oakland (7-107), Lee will run most of his routes at Titans LCB Antwon Blake, a perennial burn victim in Pittsburgh who is filling in for Perrish Cox (concussion). Lee has four or more receptions in five straight games and played 68% of Jacksonville’s Week 7 snaps. He has led the Jaguars in catches (6, 7) in back-to-back games and is an underrated WR3/flex. … A colossal fantasy bust, Robinson hasn’t cleared 75 yards yet this season and has seven drops over his last five games. He also has the toughest Week 8 matchup in Jacksonville’s pass-catcher corps against RCB Jason McCourty. McCourty did give up Hilton’s 37-yard touchdown and a 20-yard catch to Colts fourth receiver Devin Street last week. Robinson leads the Jaguars in red-zone targets (10) and targets inside the ten-yard line (5), and therefore he is never a bad bet to score TDs. Still, we need to downgrade Robinson to a boom-bust WR2/3 until he picks it up. … Hurns has drawn seven or more targets in four of the last five weeks, but he also has yet to top 75 yards on the year. Running most of his routes in the slot, Hurns will tangle with below-average Titans slot CB Brice McCain. Hurns is best viewed as a low-upside WR3/4. … Assuming Thomas plays – he missed Tuesday’s practice with an ankle injury -- Thomas will match up with a Titans defense that was gashed by Colts backup TEs Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope for an 11-129-1 receiving line last week. Thomas hasn’t cleared 30 yards since Week 2, however, and his to-date production and usage suggests Thomas can only be viewed as a touchdown-or-bust, low-end TE1. Thomas’ backup is blocker Lewis, who managed one catch for 12 yards on two targets when Thomas missed Week 4 against the Colts.
Score Prediction: Titans 23, Jaguars 17