Any Given Sunday
The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.

Any Given Sunday: Jaguars Over Titans

Any Given Sunday: Jaguars Over Titans
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Rivers McCown

The Titans were supposed to provide hope for an exciting playoff game, something free of the game-manager tendencies that have defined the early Saturday Wild-Card Weekend throughout the 2010s. They built a devastating rushing offense, they ran an effective passing game off of it, and they even managed five Pro Bowlers.

There were a lot of reasons they unraveled against the Jaguars. Marcus Mariota had a rough outing even before he left the game with a fractured fibula. He was fortunate that a couple of throws into contested coverage were not picked off. Tennessee's run game mustered just 2.9 yards per carry against the Jaguars' 12th-ranked DVOA run defense.

But the main issue was one that we would have easily picked from the standpoint of seasonal predictions. The Jaguars have excellent wide receivers, or so we thought four months ago. Even with Allen Hurns sidelined for the season, the development of Marqise Lee has created a future where the Jaguars can make easy yardage for their quarterback. If Allen Robinson can play like a No. 1 receiver again, it all falls into place.

The Tennessee cornerback depth chart was less corps and more corpse at this point. Jason McCourty, the stalwart No. 1 corner, missed the game with a chest injury. No. 2 cornerback Perrish Cox was released in-season, on account of the fact that he was terrible. (Cox's 42 percent success rate was 69th of 71 qualifying corners entering this week.) That meant that the Titans were asking undrafted free agent LeShaun Sims and journeyman Brice McCain to cover Jacksonville's receivers. While those two have not been hopeless in limited time, it turned out to be a bit of a mismatch.

Robinson went off, catching 9-of-12 targets for 147 yards. Lee caught the opening touchdown of the game, giving Jacksonville a great game script from which to avoid Bortling the game away. The Jaguars were content to play a screen game with Chris Ivory and take long field goals when they could. Under interim head coach Doug Marrone, they were more conservative, to their benefit.

To be clear, this game was not as far apart as the final score looked. The Jaguars always had the lead, but it was tenuous up until a trick play and Matt Cassel's pick-six blew up the scoreboard.

Fluky as it may sound, the Titans actually had a better offensive DVOA with Cassel in the game, 30.6% to -15.6%. I have no doubt that Mariota would have kicked it up a gear in a hurry-up situation, where he tends to do better when the Titans un-smashmouth themselves. But to be honest, the Titans struggled out of shotgun against the Jaguars early in the game as well. It was a poorly timed stinker after last week's game against the Chiefs raised everyone's hopes.

By the VOA

TEN -2.5% 26.4% 6.6% -22.3%
JAC 18.3% -24.8% 6.1% 49.2%
TEN -4.2% 16.5% 6.6% -14.1%
JAC 23.3% -13.2% 6.1% 42.6%

[ad placeholder 3]

I love it when we do an upset where I don't even have to point out reasons why our numbers look off. "Well yards per play were different..." or "well, turnover battle..." A good decisive win is always fun.

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ramsey

There was quite a bit of consternation at the time, though I'm guessing not as much today, when the Cowboys eschewed Jalen Ramsey and selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick. What we've learned so far, with Joey Bosa on a nice pace after signing late as well, is that each of the first three teams to pass on a quarterback in last April's draft should be happy with their selections.

Ramsey has become a difference-maker as a corner late in this season. He's 29th in our success rate statistic among qualified cornerbacks, despite the typical rookie growing pains. While, yes, we will run the pick-six, I also want to point out this pass he nearly intercepted off Mariota early in the game.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Ramsey starts this play as the bottom Jaguar on the screen (20), Tajae Sharpe runs an in, and Ramsey appears to be behind him by quite a bit. Except, when Mariota actually sees this on the run and targets Sharpe, he learns that he's being played. Ramsey's recovery speed on this play is ridiculous. He nearly holds on for the interception.

The pick-six was honestly a little less impressive, just because it's Matt Cassel, you know? We all know that Matt Cassel is about the checkdown life.

[ad placeholder 4]

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

As this ball is thrown, receiver Rishard Matthews begins to break on his out. Ramsey was just begging for this ball to be thrown. He read it so well that all he had to do was catch it in stride and take it right to the house.

The Jaguars are where they are because they have had a habit of bungling their early picks. Luke Joeckel isn't helping them. Blake Bortles obviously isn't either. Dante Fowler has had a pretty lackluster second season after missing his rookie year.

But Jalen Ramsey? He's pretty good. You might want to avoid throwing at him.


2 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2016, 3:39am