Denver Broncos (1-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-3)
This is a matchup of two teams that are both better than their record. The Titans are just 2-3, but their two wins came by a combined 44 points, while their 3 losses came by a combined 22 points, giving them a +22 point differential that is best in the NFL and best among teams with a losing record. That’s despite the fact that they missed 4 field goals in a 7-point home loss last week. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 11th at +2.52%.
The Titans’ defense is the strength of their team, ranking 4th in first down rate allowed, as it was last year, when they also ranked 4th in first down rate allowed, but, with a healthy Marcus Mariota under center, their offense isn’t bad either, ranking 22nd in first down rate. The Titans went 6-2 for a stretch last season with a healthy Mariota under center, including wins over the Patriots and Cowboys, and went 9-7 overall despite playing 9 playoff teams (4-5). They’ve had some bad luck early in the year, but they could easily go on a similar 6-2 run at some point this season.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are 1-4, but they could easily have 2 or 3 wins, with two of their losses coming on last second field goals. Their average margin of defeat in their four losses is 5.75 points and they rank a decent 19th in first down rate differential at -0.81%. If these two teams were playing other teams this week, we likely would have gotten line value with both of them. Unfortunately, they are playing each other, so this line, favoring the Broncos at home by 1.5 points, is exactly what I have it calculated it, so we aren’t getting significant line value with either side.
The Titans are in a better spot though, as the Broncos have to turn around and face the Chiefs next week, while the Titans host the Chargers. Underdogs are 67-29 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Making matters worse for the Broncos, that game against the Chiefs is in 4 days on Thursday Night Football and favorites cover at just a 43.8% rate all-time before a short week. I’d need a full field goal to bet the Titans confidently, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line is a smart bet as well.
Tennessee Titans 19 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +110
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1.5