Tennessee Titans (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)
Peyton Manning’s struggles in the cold are well documented. If you’ve been reading things about this game on the internet or watching ESPN or NFL Network this week, you might have heard this stat: in games where the game-time temperature was 32 or below, Peyton Manning is 3-7, completing just 59.4% of his passes with 11 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, obviously different numbers than he’s used to. I don’t know if that statistic is as powerful as it seems because he has some strong games in the 33-40 degree range and I don’t think there’s anything magic about the number 32 that makes him terrible, unless he’s secretly a liquid.
However, there’s definitely a trending down of his play as the temperature gets colder, more than the rest of the league’s quarterbacks. Those problems seem to be more pronounced as he’s gotten older and dealt with more injury problems (the loss in New England and the home loss to Baltimore last year are 2 of his 6 losses since coming to Denver) and now he’s going to have to deal with incredibly cold temperatures at home in Denver this week with Tennessee coming to town. The game time temperature for this one is expected to be somewhere around 10 degrees and fall into single digits over the course of the game.
Peyton Manning probably won’t lose the game solely because of the cold, but it’s going to make it very tough for the Broncos to cover this 13 point spread. That spread is ridiculous to begin with. The Titans are a decent football team, which moves the chains at a 73% rate, as opposed to 74% for their opponents, which ranks 17th in the NFL in terms of differential. They’ve been competitive with both Seattle and Kansas City this year and they don’t deserve to be 13 point underdogs against anyone. I have this line calculated around 8.5 points.
The Broncos have really slowed down since their incredible start offensively. In his first 5 games, Peyton Manning completed 150 of 196 (76.5%) for 1884 yards (9.61 YPA), 20 touchdowns, and 1 interception. However, in his past 7 games, Peyton Manning has completed 177 of 288 (61.4%) for 2241 yards (7.78 YPA), 21 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. His numbers from his past 6 games aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s not otherworldly like he was to start the season. This line is still treating him like he is and not taking the weather into account. In spite of that, the public is still all over the Broncos, which is why the odds makers can inflate the line and still make a lot of money with a Tennessee cover. Fading heavy public leans is always a good idea.
The Titans are also in a good spot here as road underdogs off of a road loss last week in Indianapolis. Teams are 101-59 ATS in that spot since 2008 and cover at about a 65% rate historically, no matter what year you use to cut off your sample size. Teams seem to grow accustomed to playing away from home and that nullifies some of the negative effects. The Broncos, meanwhile, are in a bad spot, as they play on Thursday night next week. They could definitely get caught looking forward to that, especially since the divisional Chargers are coming to town. Favorites generally struggle before a Thursday game because they get caught looking forward, going 28-52 ATS in that situation since 2008, including 12-28 ATS before a divisional Thursday game. I have confidence that the Titans will keep this one closer than 13.
Denver Broncos 27 Tennessee Titans 20
Pick against spread: Tennessee +13