AFC scouting report

January 23, 2000|By Ken Murray

Titans run offense vs. Jaguars run defense -- TITANS EDGE

RB Eddie George is relentless behind an offensive line that averages 308 pounds. He is averaging 4.9 yards a carry in two playoff games, but averaged just 3.6 in two regular-season wins over the Jaguars. QB Steve McNair gained 4.7 yards a rush with eight touchdowns in the regular season, and is at his best on third-down quarterback draws. The Jaguars were tied for sixth in run defense.

Titans pass offense vs. Jaguars pass defense - JAGUARS EDGE

In two ultra-conservative playoff game plans, McNair is averaging 94 passing yards a game with no touchdowns and one interception. That won't beat Jacksonville. McNair's 291-yard, five-touchdown passing performance in Week 16 is deceptive. His big-yardage plays were more run than pass. CB Aaron Beasley (six interceptions) leads the Jaguars' third-ranked pass defense.

Jaguars run offense vs. Titans run defense - JAGUARS EDGE

The Jaguars led the league in rushing with 130.7 yards a game. James Stewart led the team in rushing yards (931) and TDs (13), but Fred Taylor is the man who makes the offense go. Hampered by a hamstring injury during the regular season, Taylor is averaging 127.7 yards a game and 5.4 yards a carry in three career playoff games. The Titans were 10th in rush defense.

Jaguars pass offense vs. Titans pass defense - JAGUARS EDGE

Because of a knee injury, QB Mark Brunell hasn't played a full game in a month, and went less than a half in last week's 62-7 rout of Miami. He'll get a heavy pass rush from the Titans' defensive line, especially Jevon Kearse. WR Jimmy Smith (116 catches, six TDs) is the Jaguars' big-play receiver. The Titans ranked only 25th against the pass. CB Samari Rolle is their emerging star.

Special teams -- TITANS EDGE

As return men, the Jaguars' Reggie Barlow and the Titans' Derrick Mason are similarly productive. Jacksonville has the edge with kicker Mike Hollis (11 of 16 from 40 yards or longer), but Tennessee has the edge with punter Craig Hentrich (38.1 net average). Any team resourceful enough to work a 75-yard touchdown return on a cross-field lateral -- as the Titans did in their wild-card win over Buffalo -- has to be feared.

Key matchup -- JAGUARS EDGE

Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith vs. Titans CB Samari Rolle. Smith had two TD catches against Miami and is one of the team's two game-breakers. If he has success downfield, it makes Fred Taylor even more dangerous on short throws underneath or on cutback runs. Rolle did a marvelous job against Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison last week and needs another big game.

Coaching -- JAGUARS EDGE

Tennessee's Jeff Fisher grinds it out on the ground and pounds with his defense, a conservative style that has worked so far. Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin didn't have to open things up against Miami, but may want to today. Unlike last year, he's got the ammunition to reach the Super Bowl.

Intangibles - TITANS EDGE

After playing two lame-duck seasons in Houston and two more as tourists in Tennessee before moving into Adelphia Coliseum this year, the Titans are hardened to life on the road. They weren't intimidated by the roar of the RCA Dome last week. It won't be nearly that loud in Jacksonville, where they've won four of five games.

Prediction -- JAGUARS EDGE

The Titans have scored just two offensive touchdowns in two postseason games. Unless McNair has a breakout game, they will struggle on offense. The Jaguars have enough balance to move the ball and score. Jacksonville, 24-13.

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