Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
In week 1, the Bills went into Los Angeles and beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams in a blowout, winning 31-10 in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 11.04% and the yards per play battle by 3.44, despite the fact that the Rams were in a great spot as defending Super Bowl Champions in a home opener, a situation in which teams had covered in 12 of the 17 previous instances. A lot of the talk after that game is about how the Rams were overrated coming into the season, but I think the bigger takeaway is how good the Bills are.
Coming into the season, I had the Bills winning 13 games, winning the AFC, and ultimately losing in the Super Bowl, but I think even that might have been underrating them. The Bills finished the 2020 season with the #1 ranked offense in efficiency, finished last season #1 in defensive efficiency, with a 5th ranked offense, and always had the potential to be a truly dominant team on both sides of the ball this season, even if I wasn’t expecting them to necessarily be that good. I don’t think it’s an overreaction to consider the Bills the clear Super Bowl favorite right now, as a result of that game.
The Titans, meanwhile, lost their home opener against the Giants, losing by 1 point on a late 2-point conversion as 5.5-point home favorites. The takeaway for some from that game might be that the Giants are better than expected, but I think that game said more about the Titans than the Giants. The Giants are almost definitely going to remain a below average team this season, but the Titans might not be much better, if any better than them.
The Titans finished last season at 12-5, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
This line shifted from Buffalo -7.5 on the early line last week to Buffalo -10 this week and, while we’ve definitely lost line value as a result of that, I don’t think that line movement is an overreaction and we’re still getting a little bit of value with the Bills, who I have calculated at 11.5-point favorites, with the public maybe not quite realizing how good the Bills are or how much worse the Titans are likely to be this season than their record last season would suggest.
The Bills do have some important injuries, missing top cornerback Tre’Davious White as well as their top interior defender Ed Oliver and his likely replacement Tim Settle, but the White missed the opener against the Rams as well and the Titans aren’t healthy either, not only missing Harold Landry, but also a pair of would-be starting cornerbacks Elijah Molden and Kristian Fulton, so we’re still getting some line value with the Bills.
That being said, I can’t take the Bills with any confidence this week because the Titans are likely to have the emotional edge. While the Bills just won one of their biggest games of the season and were practically anointed Super Bowl favorites on national TV, the Titans just lost to a team that was expected to be one of the worst in the league, so they could be overlooked, which happens to be when the Titans tend to play their best football.
Since Mike Vrabel took over in 2018, the Titans are 14-9 ATS after a loss, 15-7 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal, and 7-2 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal after a loss, which is the case this week. The Bills are still my pick for pick ‘em purposes, but we might not see their best effort this week, while the Titans are likely to play one of their better games of the season, so, even though we’re getting line value with the Bills, they are one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.
Buffalo Bills 31 Tennessee Titans 20
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -10