Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-4)
Going into the season, part of the reason why I liked the Titans was because they added Ryan Tannehill as a backup quarterback in the off-season, in case Marcus Mariota got hurt or struggled again. After Mariota led the Titans to a shutout in Denver last week, Tannehill is now under center for Tennessee. Tannehill is not a great quarterback, but he’s an experienced starter and is still arguably one of the top-32 quarterbacks in the league, so he’s a big upgrade over the kinds of backup quarterbacks they’ve had in the past.
The Titans don’t need a great passing game to win either. Last year, led by a defense that ranked 4th in first down rate allowed, they went 9-7 despite Mariota struggling through injuries for much of the year and they went 4-5 in their league leading 9 games against playoff qualifiers. They had an 8-game stretch after the bye last season where Mariota was healthy and they went 6-2, including multi-touchdown wins over the Cowboys and Patriots.
This year, they are just 2-4, but they rank 4th in first down rate allowed and 12th in first down rate differential, as much as their offense has struggled. Even with last week’s shutout loss in Denver, the Titans still have a +6 point differential, best among teams with a losing record, and that’s despite having a game in which they missed 4 field goals in a 7-point loss. If Tannehill can even be a little bit of an upgrade over a struggling Mariota, this could be a really competitive football team going forward, despite their underwhelming record.
The Chargers are actually the other team with a losing record and a positive point differential, at +2, but that’s in large part due to the fact that they’ve faced the Dolphins, who they beat by 20 points. Their only other victory came in overtime against the Colts in a game they would have lost if the Colts hadn’t missed multiple makeable kicks. Having already matched their loss total from 2018, the Chargers are clearly not the same team without left tackle Russell Okung, defensive end Melvin Ingram, center Mike Pouncey, and most importantly safety Derwin James. We’re not getting much value betting against them any more, but this line at Tennessee -2 suggests the Chargers are slightly better and I have that the other way around, so the Titans are worth a bet this week. If Okung, who could make his season debut after returning to practice this week, does not play, I will consider increasing this bet.
Tennessee Titans 23 Los Angeles Chargers 19
Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2