Tennessee Titans (1-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-4)
The Titans get Marcus Mariota back this week after he missed the past 2 weeks with a knee injury. The Titans lost both games without him to fall to 1-6 on the season and moved the chains at a 57.41% rate in those 2 games, as opposed to 72.89% in Mariota’s 5 starts. Mariota has played pretty well as a rookie, completing 64.0% of his passes for an average of 7.70 YPA, 9 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, though it’s unclear how well he’ll play in his return from injury, especially without his top wide receiver Kendall Wright, who is out with an injury.
The Titans’ defense has been their better unit this season, ranking 10th in rate of moving the chains allowed, despite missing one of their two starting cornerbacks (Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox) in 5 of 7 games. McCourty is expected to be out this week, though Cox will return. As a result of the Titans’ solid defensive play, the Titans rank 21st in rate of moving the chains differential, despite missing their starting quarterback and best offensive player for 2 games. The Saints, meanwhile, rank 14th. Given that, this line seems a little high at 8 in favor of the Saints at home, despite the fact that the Saints are healthier than the Titans and healthier than they’ve been pretty much all season.
The Titans are also in their 2nd straight road game, which helps. Teams are 121-86 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 99-59 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 208-213 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.50 points per game, as opposed to 296-414 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.97 points per game.
However, they’re also in a bad spot, with a tough game on deck against the undefeated Panthers in Tennessee next week. Teams are 41-80 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4+, 21-52 ATS before being home underdogs of 6+, and 13-30 ATS before being home underdogs of 7+, over that same time period. If the Titans are underdogs of 6+ next week (very possible), it opens up another trend, as underdogs of 6+ are 40-64 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again.
The Saints also have contrasting stuff on their side. On one hand, they’re at home and they have gone 35-18 ATS at home since 2008, excluding the season Sean Payton wasn’t on the sideline. However, they’re also just 2-7 ATS in their last 9 home games. Additionally, teams are 28-48 ATS as home favorites off of a win by 1-3 points as favorites, since 2008. The Saints won by a field goal as home favorites against the Giants last week. The Titans seem like the right side as 8 point road underdogs, but there’s not enough here for me to be confident, especially since the Titans just fired their coach. I just don’t know how the Titans will play this week, with their quarterback coming off of a significant injury, their top receiver missing his first game of the season, and the team transitioning to a new head coach without the luxury of a bye week.
New Orleans Saints 24 Tennessee Titans 17
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +8