Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 1 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

This line favors the Titans by a field goal at home, suggesting these two teams are about equal, with the Titans possibly being the slightly higher ranked team by the oddsmakers. I think this line is off. These two teams were about even in point differential last season (+52 for the Titans vs. +43 for the Cardinals), even though the Cardinals had quarterback Kyler Murray suffer an injury down the stretch, while Titans faced a significantly easier schedule and benefited from a league best +11 turnover margin, which is a highly inconsistent metric on a year-to-year basis. 

The Cardinals finished last season 12th in first down differential at +1.39%, as opposed to 24th at -1.31% for the Titans, and they should be better this season, in Kyler Murray’s third season in the league, with Chandler Jones returning from injury and key off-season additions Rodney Hudson and JJ Watt upgrading big positions of need. The Cardinals aren’t as good at cornerback as a year ago, with Patrick Peterson signing in Minnesota and replacement Malcolm Butler retiring before the season for personal reasons, but they’re an overall better team than a year ago.

The Titans, meanwhile, made a splash addition of Julio Jones this off-season, but he’s an aging receiver on the decline and could easily not be an upgrade on departed free agent wide receiver Corey Davis, who finished last season 5th with 2.58 yards per route run. They added Bud Dupree to upgrade their pass rush, but gutted their cornerbacks in the process and overpaid a player in Dupree who is coming off of a torn ACL and who is unlikely to be as effective away from the Steelers’ talented defense. 

Add in the fact that Derrick Henry is unlikely to repeat last year’s historic season and the Titans seem likely to be worse than a year ago, while the Cardinals are likely to be better. Considering the Cardinals probably already had the edge last season, that would make the Cardinals a significantly better team. I have them 2.5 points higher in my roster rankings, making this an even line with the Titans at home. This isn’t a big bet, but I’ll happily take the field goal we’re getting in this game and will make a play on the moneyline as well.

Arizona Cardinals 31 Tennessee Titans 30 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Medium

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