Tennessee Titans (8-3) at New England Patriots (7-4)
Normally, I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like the one in this matchup, with the Patriots moving from 3-point favorites on the early line last week to 7-point favorites, but in this case, this is just the line catching up with how good the Patriots are. Not only are the Patriots on a 5-game winning streak, but they have covered the spread by at least seven points in each game, with an average margin about 19.8 points higher than the spread.
With their losses coming by one point, two points, and in overtime, the Patriots are legitimately a few plays away from being 9-2 or 10-1 right now, while their only one score wins came in a game in Houston in which the Patriots were missing most of their offensive line and a game in Los Angeles in which the Patriots were up by 10 before a garbage time touchdown cut the margin to 3. They also led the league with a +123 point differential entering this week.
Meanwhile, the Titans have needed to go 4-1 in games decided by a field goal or less to get to 8-3 and their +37 point differential is more in line with a team that is about 6-5. On top of that, the Titans’ offense has struggled mightily since losing running back Derrick Henry for an extended period of time with an injury. The Titans are 2-1 in three games without Henry, but one of their wins came in a game in which their defense had two pick sixes, which is definitely not something the Titans can rely on doing every week, while their other win was a near loss at home to a Trevor Siemian led Saints team that was also missing Alvin Kamara and multiple offensive line starters.
Meanwhile, their loss came last week at home against the Texans. The Titans likely would have beaten the Texans if not for a -5 turnover margin, which is a highly non-predictive metric, but the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league and have lost by double digits in six of their other nine games, a margin that the Titans likely would have had trouble reaching even if they played turnover neutral football. All in all, the Titans have averaged just 4.55 yards per play in their past three games without Henry, down from 5.49 yards per play in their first eight games of the season with Henry. This week, the Titans will also be without top wide receiver AJ Brown, after already being without fellow talented starting wide receiver Julio Jones, leaving them basically devoid of proven playmakers around Ryan Tannehill on offense.
Despite having a 8-3 record, the Titans shouldn’t be considered more than an average team in their current state, while the Patriots are one of the top few teams in the league. Given that, not only is this 7-point spread justified, but my calculated line has the Patriots favored by nine points. There isn’t quite enough here for this game to be bettable, but I have no problem laying this many points in this matchup for pick ‘em purposes and if this line drops below a touchdown, I may consider placing a bet.
New England Patriots 23 Tennessee Titans 14
Pick against the spread: New England -7