The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans are the NFL’s most boring rivalry. They will be meeting for the 51st time on Sunday afternoon. Exciting.
When the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the NFL as an expansion franchise during the 1995 NFL season, they were bound to get in the way of some of the more seasoned NFL teams. Jacksonville first joined the then-AFC Central with teams like the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Tennessee Titans.
Initially, these two teams played in some great games in the late 1990s, as Jacksonville made two runs to the AFC Championship Game in 1996 and again in 1999. That 1999 Jaguars team was the best in franchise history, as they went 14-2 during the regular season, but lost at home in the AFC Championship, losing to the division rival Titans every single time. Talk about owning somebody.
Flash forward 20 years and that was the peak of this now-AFC South rivalry. Sunday will be the 51st meeting between these two teams, but how many of them were memorable? In 2017, Tennessee swept the season series, but it was #Sacksonville that won the AFC South that year, with the Titans making it in as a wild card. 2017 ended lengthy playoff droughts for both clubs.
Last season saw Titans running back Derrick Henry rush for a 99-yard touchdown on the Jaguars in Nashville on Thursday Night Football, a stage that has become far too commonplace with these AFC South franchises. If both teams are bad the year before, they will get their mandatory one primetime game on Thursday Night Football, playing against each other for no one to enjoy.
Besides Henry’s greatest run of his life, the other highlight from Thursday Night Football meetings between the Jaguars and the Titans was those absolutely hideous cat vomit mustard yellow uniforms the Jaguars had to wear because of Color Rush. They were so bad that it distracted us from Blake Bortles playing bad football in a two-tone helmet. Even he publicly hated the threads.
Overall, this is still a pretty competitive series, as the Titans hold a 29-21 lead over the Jaguars. They play each other twice annually, oftentimes to decide which team will finish in the AFC South’s basement in that given year. Things could change down the road, as that’s how the NFC South’s best rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints began in the old NFC West.
Since Tennessee was rebranded as the Titans in 1999, these two rivals have gone on to win a combined six division titles. Jacksonville won the old AFC North in 1998 and 1999, as well as the AFC South for the first time in 2017. Tennessee won the old AFC North in 2000 and then won the AFC South in 2002 and then a bit later in 2008. No wonder this rivalry has been so utterly boring.
In truth, the AFC South has been a division that the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans have dominated since its creation in 2002 to include the expansion Texans into the league. Every year the Texans have made the AFC playoffs, they have done so as a division winner (2011-12, 2015-16, 2018). Indianapolis has won the AFC South nine times (2003-07, 2009-10, 2013-14).
But this year it could be different…no, it won’t. This division race will come down to either Houston or Indianapolis as it has done for the better part of the 21st century. Minshew Mania was cool and he was a big reason they won earlier in the season over the Titans. Tennessee has accepted that Marcus Mariota isn’t their franchise quarterback, so football progress could be on its way soon.
But even if it’s not, what can make the NFL’s most boring rivalry a little more lively? The only correct answer is to involve the water in these two river cities. The winner should be allowed to dye the Cumberland River or the St. John’s River the color of their choice. For Tennessee, it has to be baby blue. For Jacksonville, teal for home wins, but stanky mustard yellow up in Nashville. Yes!
At the end of the day, we have to respect this rivalry’s competitiveness and have to hope that one day these two teams will be relatively great at the same time as they were in 1999 and sort of in 2017. The AFC South has the potential to be great, but these two bitter rivals need to need to give us better games. Or they could just where crazy uniforms and be a total clown show. They decide.