New York Jets (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)
The Titans are for real as a playoff contender. I actually had them in the playoffs last year, but I might have been a year early. I didn’t put them in the playoffs this year, but that looks like a complete oversight right now, especially since they have 7 of my top-200 players from a month ago (Michael Roos, David Stewart, Andy Levitre, Chris Johnson, Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, and Jason McCourty) and their defense was an obvious bounce back candidate after allowing the 8th fewest points in 2011 and the most in 2012, with essentially the same personnel.
Their defense certainly looks closer to what they were in 2011 than in 2012 thus far through 3 games. They’re allowing just 18.7 points per game and have allowed opponents to convert 1st and 10 for a subsequent set of downs 71% of the time. They have a +4% differential in this aspect. Jake Locker remains the limiting factor, but even he seems improved over what he was in his first 2 years in the league, with an improved supporting cast and his first opportunity at consistent, healthy playing time, though he’ll eventually start turning the ball over more often. As a result of the Titans’ strong play, they are 2-1, with wins over San Diego and Pittsburgh and a near win in Houston against the heavily favored Texans.
The Jets are 2-1 as well as they are also doing it with defense. They are allowing opponents to convert 1st and 10 for a subsequent set of downs 57% of the time, best in the NFL, though they are actually only +7% in terms of differential because their offense isn’t moving the ball well at all. While I wouldn’t be surprised if that continued, they’re highly unlikely to be this good defensively all season, just because no one is. They’ve faced the Bills, Buccaneers, and a disoriented Patriots team on Thursday Night. Their competition will get tougher. Offensively, they might not be at 64% all season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t show much improvement in that aspect. I buy Tennessee’s 2-1 start much more than the Jets’ 2-1 start.
The Jets probably won’t move the ball very well this week against the Titans’ tough defense. I don’t disrespect the Jets’ defense at all, with Demario Davis and Damon Harrison having breakout years and David Harris having a bounce back year. They will make life tough for Jake Locker. However, I like the Titans’ chances of moving the ball against the Jets’ defense more than the Jets’ chances of moving the ball against the Titans’ defense. The reason this is a no confidence pick is because this line is higher than a field goal and there’s always a good chance that a game between two defensive teams ends up being a field goal game, even if one team is noticeably more talented than the other and at home.
Tennessee Titans 17 New York Jets 13
Pick against spread: Tennessee -3.5