San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)
These two teams have had eerily similar starts to their season. Both have almost beaten the Texans in what was seen as a “surprise,” even though the Texans haven’t really been that good since the middle of last season. Both also pulled upset wins in Pennsylvania against a team that might not have been as good as we thought they were at the time. Still, both of these teams have exceeded expectations thus far this season.
They also rank 18th and 20th (Tennessee and San Diego respectively) in terms of how frequently they convert 1st and 10 for a subsequent set of first downs, as opposed to how frequently they allow their opponents to do so. The Titans are doing it with defense, allowing opponents to convert 68.4% of their first and 10s for a subsequent set of downs, while the Chargers are doing it with offense, converting 82.5% of first and 10s for a subsequent set of downs. At the same time, the Titans’ offense has been miserable, while the Chargers’ defense can’t stop anyone.
The question here is which of these teams, if any, is for real, at least in terms of being a pseudo-playoff contender in the weaker AFC. I think we’ll have a better idea of that after the game, but that doesn’t do us any good before the game. However, I feel that the Titans are for real, while the Chargers aren’t. For one, I think the Titans are more overall talented. They had 7 of my pre-season top-200 players, while the Chargers had just 1, including none on offense. The reason they’re moving the ball so well is because Philip Rivers seems to be having a resurgence and that could continue, but his offensive supporting cast is really not that good, so I don’t expect the Chargers to continue to be this efficient offensively.
The Titans’ defense, meanwhile, could continue to do this. They were dead last in points per game allowed last season, but they ranked 8th in 2011 with essentially the same personnel. They were one of the wild cards of this season for me for that reason and it’s very possible they are playing much closer to how they played in 2011 defensively than 2012. If that continues, they will continue to be a tough team to beat, even if Jake Locker continues throwing his name into the group of 2011 1st round quarterback busts with Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder.
For that reason, I think the Titans win here and cover a 3 point spread at home (which traditionally means two teams are even). However, I’m not that confident because the Titans are in a rough situation playing their home opener during week 3. Since 1989, teams that have played their week 3 game at home after starting the season with back to back road games are just 20-40 ATS. Starting the year on the road like that takes so much out of you. They should still be the right side though.
Tennessee Titans 20 San Diego Chargers 15
Pick against spread: Tennessee -3