Tennessee Titans 2022 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

For many years, the Titans were in quarterback limbo. From 2006-2019, the Titans had 13 different quarterbacks make starts for them in 14 seasons, with 11 of those quarterbacks starting multiple games. The Titans used top-10 picks on the position in 2006, 2011, and 2015, but Vince Young, Jake Locker, and Marcus Mariota all failed to live up to their billing. The 13th of those quarterbacks was Ryan Tannehill, who took over for the underwhelming and oft-injured Mariota after week 6 of the 2019 season, ending Mariota’s run as the Titans starting quarterback for good after 61 starts, the most by any Titans quarterback over that 14-year stretch.

Tannehill’s insertion into the lineup made an instant impact, as a 2-4 team that averaged 16.3 points per game to start the season went 7-3 the rest of the regular season, while averaging 30.4 points per game, and ultimately went on a run that eventually took them to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Tannehill didn’t do everything on his own, but he played well enough for the rest of this roster to shine and his 117.5 regular season QB rating was the best in the league that season, as he completed 70.3% of his passes for an average of 9.59 YPA, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions and finished as PFF’s #1 ranked quarterback on the season.

As great as Tannehill’s breakout was for the Titans, it put them in a tough spot, as Tannehill was set to hit free agency the following off-season and would not be cheap to keep, after he made just 2 million from the Titans in 2019. There is a reason that Tannehill was available for that price and the price of a mid-round draft pick in a trade with the Dolphins, as Tannehill was a largely middling starting quarterback throughout 88 starts in 7 seasons in Miami, completing 62.8% of his passes for an average of 7.02 YPA, 123 touchdowns, and 75 interceptions, and he had become increasingly injury prone in recent years, missing 24 games across his final three seasons in Miami. 

The Titans would have to decide if Tannehill was worth paying like the quarterback he seemed to be in 2019, or if his seven years in Miami was more indicative of his level of play. To Tannehill’s credit, he rarely had a good supporting cast or coaching staff in Miami, but in Tennessee, he had a supporting cast and coaching staff that would likely not be able to stay together long-term as players started to get paid and coaches got opportunities elsewhere. For Tannehill to be worth the kind of money he would command as a free agent, he would need to be the kind of quarterback who can elevate a team even when everything is not going well around him, not just one who produces at a high level with a high level of talent around him. 

Since the start of the salary cap era in 1994, just 5 of 28 Super Bowls have been won by a quarterback with a cap hit that was more than 11% of the salary cap and all of those quarterbacks are Hall of Fame caliber players. It’s close to impossible to win with a highly paid starting quarterback unless he is an elite player under center, as it becomes very tough to surround a non-elite quarterback with enough talent to win with if that quarterback is taking a significant percentage of the cap. The Titans opted to take a chance on Tannehill, lacking a better option, and paid up handsomely on a 4-year, 118 million dollar deal that effectively guaranteed him 91 million over the next three seasons, a huge guarantee for any player, especially one with Tannehill’s limited track record of success. 

The contract didn’t look bad from the start. Tannehill’s production fell back to earth a little in 2020, but he still finished in the 5th in the NFL in QB rating at 106.5, while leading an offense that ranked 4th in offensive efficiency for a team that went 11-5. Tennessee sputtered out in the post-season once again, but the season wasn’t a disappointment overall, especially for a franchise not used to having a consistent signal caller over the past decade and a half. However, in 2021, Tannehill regressed even further, as the supporting cast around him declined significantly. 

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who took over the play calling job in Tannehill’s first season in Tennessee, went to Atlanta to become the head coach. Their aging offensive line continued to decline. Pass catchers Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith went elsewhere in free agency and the trade for Julio Jones to give them another talented receiving option did not pan out as well, as Jones looked old and was injury prone for most of his single season in Tennessee. And, perhaps most importantly, top playmakers Derrick Henry and AJ Brown both missed time with injury.

The result was Tannehill’s worst season since his Miami days, as he completed 67.2% of his passes for an average of 7.03 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, with another 10 interceptions dropped (2nd most in the league), on an offense that ranked just 19th in offensive efficiency. The Titans still went 12-5, but that was in large part due to a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. Both Brown and Henry were back for the post-season, but it didn’t matter, as Tannehill’s 3 interceptions led to the Titans losing to the Bengals in their first playoff game.

Now going into 2022, things could arguably be even worse this season. The Titans lost left guard Rodger Saffold and right tackle David Quessenberry in free agency and both were solid starters on the offensive line last season. The Titans traded for veteran wide receiver Robert Woods to replace Julio Jones, but he’s going into his age 30 season and coming off of an ACL tear, and, most importantly, Woods won’t have AJ Brown lined up opposite him, as the Titans made the draft day decision to send him to Philadelphia for a package centered around the 18th overall pick, which the Titans used to select Treylon Burks from Arkansas to be Brown’s potential long-term replacement.

It’s hard to illustrate how much Brown will be missed by the Titans, but his three seasons in Tennessee, during which he averaged 2.50 yards per route run, lined up with the emergence of Tannehill and the rest of this offense. During those three seasons, Tannehill averaged 10.15 yards per attempt targeting Brown, as opposed to 7.28 yards per attempt targeting everyone else. In six games without Brown, Tannehill is just 3-3 over those three seasons with a QB rating 17.1 points lower than his QB rating with Brown (104.6). His 87.5 QB rating over those 6 games without Brown is actually about the same as his QB rating in 7 seasons with the Dolphins (87.0). I’ll get into Tannehill’s supporting cast more later, but, with Brown gone, this group should undoubtedly be worse than a year ago, even if they get more than expected from certain players.

This illustrates the reason why non-elite, highly paid quarterbacks have such a hard time winning the Super Bowl. If Tannehill had not been set to make 56 million over the next two seasons, it would have been easier to keep Brown on the 4-year, 100 million dollar extension he eventually got from Philadelphia. Quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers also lost their top receivers this off-season for similar reasons, but those quarterbacks are talented enough to compensate for the loss of that top receiver. Tannehill is unlikely to have the same success without AJ Brown.

The Titans are perhaps realizing their mistake with Tannehill a little bit, at least bringing in another potential long-term option, using a third round pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, a raw quarterback prospect with a high ceiling, who would be a significantly cheaper option if he could develop into a starting caliber player ahead of Tannehill’s 27 million non-guaranteed salary in 2023, or the end of his contract in 2024.

I am not as bullish on Willis’ chances of taking Tannehill’s job at some point as some are, because, if the Titans had liked him more, they wouldn’t have let him fall to the middle of the third round before trading up to draft him, but, at the very least, Willis gives them long-term potential on a cheap rookie contract and, in the short-term, a better backup, which the Titans haven’t had the past two seasons, with the inexperienced Logan Woodside as the #2 option. Willis’ addition upgrades this quarterback room, but this is likely Tannehill’s job for at least one more year and his struggles from last season could easily continue, given what has happened with his supporting cast.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

I will get into the receiving corps and what the Titans are doing to replace AJ Brown shortly, but the Titans will also be retooling their offensive line this season, after losing starting left guard Rodger Saffold and starting right tackle David Quessenberry this off-season, without doing much to replace either of them. The Titans’ offensive line has been better in the past, but they were still a solid group last season, with Saffold and Quessenberry finishing 24th and 16th respectively on PFF at their respective positions. Without them, they figure to take a big step back.

On top of that, two of their three offensive linemen who remain from last year’s solid group are on the wrong side of 30, with left tackle Taylor Lewan and center Ben Jones heading into their age 31 season and age 33 season respectively. Both still earned above average grades from PFF last season, with Lewan ranking 41st among tackles and Jones ranking 8th among centers, and both have earned above average grades from PFF in throughout most of their career, with Jones finishing above average in 9 of 10 seasons in the league and Lewan doing so in 7 of 8 seasons in the league, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if one or both dropped off noticeably this season, which would be a problem for an offensive line that already figures to decline regardless this season.

Quessenberry will likely be replaced by 2021 second round pick Dillon Radunz, but he struggled in 124 rookie year snaps and the Titans seemed to hedge their bet with him a little bit by selecting Nicholas Petit-Frere in the third round of this year’s draft. With Lewan aging, it’s possible the Titans view Radunz and Petit-Frere as their long-term bookend tackles, but, in the short term, both are raw and inexperienced players who will be competing to start at right tackle, with Radunz being the early favorite. The Titans could get solid play out of one of the young tackles, but they both come with significant downside and it would be hard for either to be as good as Quessenberry was last season.

Saffold, meanwhile, will be replaced by either 2020 undrafted free agent Aaron Brewer, who was underwhelming across 508 snaps as a versatile reserve in 2021, after playing just 152 snaps as a rookie, or by free agent acquisition Jamarco Jones, a 2018 5th round pick who struggled across 672 snaps in four seasons with the Seahawks. Brewer is likely the favorite as a result of his familiarity with the offense, but it’s likely neither will be a good option and both will probably end up seeing starts at some point, one way or another. The Titans could also potentially kick Radunz inside to left guard if they want to start Petit-Frere at right tackle.

Right guard Nate Davis is the only returning starter under 30 and the 2019 3rd round pick has developed into an above average player. Davis was overmatched as a 12-game starter as a rookie, finishing 87th among 89 eligible guards on PFF, but he’s improved significantly since then, finishing 18th as a 16-game starter in 2020 and 27th as a 14-game starter in 2021. Still only going into his age 26 season, Davis should continue being an above average starter in 2022 and beyond and may even have more untapped potential. He’s a bright spot for an offensive line with significant questions and concerns.

Grade: C+

Receiving Corps

As I mentioned, AJ Brown had a huge impact on this offense in his three seasons in Tennessee. Overall, Brown finished 9th, 3rd, and 9th among wide receivers on PFF, all before his 25th birthday. The Titans also let go of Julio Jones this off-season, but he had just a 31/434/1 slash line in 10 games, so he won’t be missed much, which means that, with Treylon Burks and Robert Woods coming in this off-season, the Titans are essentially replacing Brown with two players, but even that is easier said than done, as neither have Brown’s top level ability.

Woods was a great receiver across his first three seasons with the Rams from 2017-2019, averaging a 86/1166/5 slash line per 16 games and 2.01 yards per route run, but he started to slow down a little bit even before his injury, with a 90/936/6 slash line on 1.60 yards per route run in 16 games in 2020 and a 45/556/4 slash line on 1.74 yards per route run in 9 games in 2021 prior to getting hurt. Now going into his age 30 season, it would be a surprise to see him revert to his old form, especially in his first season removed from the injury. 

Woods has been mostly durable throughout his career, missing just 12 games across his first 8 seasons in the league prior to last seasons injury, and could still be a solid #2 receiver at this stage of his career, but it’s not surprising the Rams essentially salary-dumped him on the Titans for a 6th round pick, given that he is owed 10 million in 2022. Burks, meanwhile, comes with a big upside that some are comparing to AJ Brown’s, but he’s far from a guarantee to ever reach the same heights as Brown and, even if he does, that doesn’t mean it will happen in year one.

With Jones missing much of last season, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was the Titans’ de facto #2 receiver for most of the season, finishing 2nd on the team with a 38/476/4 slash line. He earned a middling grade from PFF and averaged an underwhelming 1.40 yards per route run, in what was the first significant action of the 2020 undrafted free agent’s career, but he’s not a bad fit as the third receiver. He would probably be overstretched if he had to spend significant time as the #2 receiver again though, either because of injury or because of rookie year struggles from Burks. The Titans also have questionable depth with 2021 4th round pick Dez Fitzpatrick (five career catches), 2021 6th round pick Racey McMath (two career catches), and 5th round rookie Kyle Phillips likely to be their top reserve options.

With Jonnu Smith gone, tight ends were not much of a factor in Tennessee offense last season, being targeted on just 20.5% of pass attempts and combining for just 18.1% of their receiving production, with none of their top-3 tight ends (Geoff Swaim, Anthony Firkser, and MyCole Pruitt) averaging more than 1.11 yards per route run. To try to improve the position, the Titans added veteran Austin Hooper in free agency and will plug him in as the starter. Hooper was released by the Browns, but he was always overpaid on a 4-year, 42 million dollar deal and is a much better value at a 6 million dollar salary in 2022, rather than the 9.5 million he was scheduled to make before the Browns released him.

Hooper had fewer receiving yards in two seasons in Cleveland (46/435/4 and 38/385/3) combined than he had in his final season in Atlanta in 2019 (75/787/6), but much of that had to do with going from a pass oriented to a run oriented offense and not getting the same amount of opportunity to run routes, with his 1.29 yards per route run average over the past two seasons not being a huge drop off from his 1.65 average in his final season in Atlanta. His 1.39 career yards per route run average is pretty solid for a tight end, especially compared to what the Titans had at the position last season, and he’s a decent blocker as well, so you could do worse than him as your starting tight end. Still in his prime in his age 28 season, he figures to be an upgrade for this team.

Geoff Swaim is the only one of the Titans’ top tight ends from a year ago to return and he figures to be the #2 tight end. Having never surpassed 242 yards receiving in seven seasons in the league, Swaim isn’t a bad #2 tight end, but he has averaged just 1.05 yards per route run for his career and isn’t more than a middling blocker either. It’s possible he could be pushed for the #2 tight end job by 4th round rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo, but he’s not a guarantee to be better. This was a top heavy receiving corps last season, led by AJ Brown, but, even though they might be deeper this season, there is no replacing the impact that Brown had on this offense.

Grade: B-

Running Backs

I haven’t mentioned Derrick Henry much, but obviously he’s been a big part of the Titans’ success over the past few seasons and he was missed in a big way when he was out last season. Unfortunately, just because of the nature of his position, it’s fair to wonder if we’ve seen his best days. Henry rushed for 4,626 yards and 45 touchdowns on 896 carries (5.16 YPC) in 3 straight 1000+ yard seasons from 2018-2020, including 2000+ yard season in 2020, and he was on pace for almost 2000 yards again in 2021 before he got hurt, but his YPC average fell to 4.28 YPC in 2021 (2nd lowest of his career) and his 2000 yard pace was largely as the result of an unsustainable workload, on pace for an absurd 465 carries in 17 games. Given that pace and the 681 carries he had in 2019 and 2020 combined, it’s not all that surprising he got hurt and his efficiency seemed to be dropping off even before he got hurt, which was not all that surprising either.

Henry had an incredible season in 2020, rushing for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns on 378 carries (5.36 YPC), becoming just the 8th player to rush for more than 2000 yards in a season and just the 22nd player to even rush for 1700 yards. The history of those 22 running backs shows that it’s very tough to do again though and that they usually fall off drastically as soon as the following season. Only 7 of those 22 running backs ever surpassed that total again in their career, only one of them repeated it a third time, only 3 surpassed that total again the following season, and only 2 improved their rushing total the following season.

In total those 22 running backs rushed for an average of 1,867 yards on 367 carries (5.09 YPC) and 15 touchdowns in their seasons with more than 1,700 rushing yards, but the following season, they saw their YPC fall by 13.9%, their carries fall by 23.7%, their rushing yards fall by 34.3%, and their rushing touchdowns fall by a whopping 41.8%. Applying those percentages to Henry’s 2020 production gets you 1,332 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 288 carries (4.62 YPC) and Henry didn’t even match that, rushing for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns on 219 carries (4.28 YPC).

On top of that, running backs don’t usually bounce back after a big drop off like that. Of 33 running backs who have had 200+ carries in a season in back-to-back years who drop off by more than 1 YPC from one season to the next season, just one of them ever returned to his previous YPC average. This doesn’t mean that Henry is about to drop off completely, but it’s much more likely that he’ll just be one of the best runners in the league, rather than the league’s best runner by a wide margin like he’s been in the past. It also won’t help that his offensive line is not what it’s been in recent years.

Henry will also likely continue to drop off in the next few seasons, as elite running backs tend to do around age 29-32. On average, a 28-year-old running back like Henry is about 4 times as likely to surpass 1000 yards in a season than a 31-year-old running back, a huge drop off over just three seasons. The Titans somewhat prepared for Henry’s future by using a 4th round pick in this year’s draft on Hassan Haskins, but that was also a necessary move for short-term depth purposes.

Dont’a Foreman was their top running back in Derrick Henry’s absence last season, but he’s no longer with the team. Jeremy McNichols was their passing down back last season, which is a necessary role even when Henry is healthy because Henry is only ordinary at best on passing downs (0.98 yards per route run), but McNichols is also no longer with the team. The Titans are unlikely to want to give Henry an expanded passing down role, wanting to preserve him for passing downs, but Haskins was not much of a receiver in college, so he’s not a great fit for that role either.

Instead, the Titans will likely turn to Dontrell Hillard, their top returning reserve running back (56 carries), in passing situations. Hillard hasn’t played much in his career (119 career touches in 38 games in 4 seasons in the league), but he does have a 1.20 yards per route run average in limited passing down action and he gives them a little bit of running ability as well, with a 5.73 YPC average for his career, albeit across just 78 carries. He and Haskins will compete to be Henry’s backup and would likely split carries in his absence if he were to get hurt, but both are questionable options, so the Titans will obviously need Henry to stay healthy all season this year. Even if he does, he’s unlikely to return to his 2020 form.

Grade: A

Interior Defenders

Not much changes on the Titans’ defense in 2021, for a team that finished 16th in defensive efficiency in 2022. Interior defender Jeffery Simmons was one of the leaders for this group and his 8.5 sacks are a very impressive total for an interior defender. A 2019 1st round pick in 2019, Simmons only had 3 sacks in 2020, but he’s not a one-year wonder, as that 2020 campaign was arguably a better year overall than his 2021 campaign, even though his sack total wasn’t impressive. 

What Simmons lacked in sacks in 2020, he made up for with 11 hits on the quarterback, as opposed to just 7 in 2021. His overall pressure rate went up from 7.6% to 9.6% from 2020 to 2021, but his run defense was significantly better in 2020 and, overall, he “fell” from 11th among interior defenders in 2020 to 23rd among interior defenders in 2021. Still, any way you look at it, Simmons, who also flashed on 315 snaps as a rookie, despite coming off a torn ACL, is coming off back-to-back strong seasons and, not even turning 25 until later this off-season, his best days could still be ahead of him. The 19th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Simmons could have been a top-5 pick if not for the ACL injury he was coming off of.

The rest of this position group, however, is not nearly as good. Naquan Jones (328 snaps), Teair Tart (334 snaps), Larrell Murchison (200 snaps), and Kyle Peko (157 snaps) all saw action at the position as well and all four struggled, especially as pass rushers, combining for just 3.4% pressure rate. All four players are also recently late round picks or undrafted free agents who played career highs in snaps last season and have no history of superior play. With the exception of Peko, all return to the Titans this season, but I wouldn’t expect any of them to be significantly improved or to play significantly more action. They’ll primarily compete for run stopping roles in base packages, but would likely be overmatched even in that limited role.

With none of those four providing much pass rush, the Titans frequently relied on edge defender Denico Autry lining up as an interior defender in sub packages. Fortunately, opposing offenses had a hard time blocking Autry regardless of where he lined up, leading to him finishing with 9 sacks, 10 hits, and a 12.2% pressure rate. However, there is reason for concern that he won’t keep up that level of play into 2022, as a player coming off of a career best year and now going into his age 32 season. 

Autry has consistently been an above average pass rusher in his career, but his 8.4% pressure rate from his previous four seasons prior to last season is a big drop off from last season’s rate, and, getting up there in age, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he regressed to the mean or even regressed lower than the mean this season. He’s also left something to be desired against the run in his career, regardless of whether or not he’s playing outside or inside. He should still be a useful player for the Titans in passing situations, but I wouldn’t expect him to be even close to as good as he was a year ago.

The one addition the Titans made to this group this off-season was signing ex-Texan DeMarcus Walker, another hybrid player who could serve as Autry’s backup and play a similar role. A second round pick in 2017 by the Broncos, Walker didn’t do much at all in his first two seasons in the league, but he’s developed into a useful rotational player in the past three seasons, averaging 354 snaps per season and pressuring the quarterback at a 9.1% rate as a hybrid player who plays on the interior and on the edge. He should play a similar role, now with a new team.

The Titans also took a flyer late last season on ex-Lion Da’Shawn Hand and he has a chance to carve out a rotational role as well. A 4th round pick in 2018, Hand flashed a lot of potential on 455 rookie year snaps, especially as a pass rusher, totaling a 9.5% pressure rate. However, injuries have completely derailed his career, limiting him to a 3.6% pressure rate and 556 snaps total in the past three seasons and ultimately leading to the Lions releasing him late last season, with the Titans then adding him to their practice squad and playing him 6 snaps in their final regular season game. If he’s healthy, he could prove to be a useful rotational player and sub package interior pass rusher, but he could just as easily get hurt again or not make the final roster. Jeffery Simmons elevates this position group significantly in a big way, but the rest of this group is much more questionable.

Grade: B

Edge Defenders

The Titans are better at the edge defender position, as, not only is Denico Autry an effective pass rusher, but they also got a big pass rushing season from edge defender Harold Landry, who led the team with 12 sacks and added 14 hits and a 12.1% pressure rate. A 2nd round pick in 2018, Landry has never shown much against the run and is a one-year wonder in terms of being the pass rusher he was last season, but he’s still in the prime of his career, going into his age 26 season, so it’s not surprising the Titans paid expensively this off-season (87.5 million over 5 years) to keep him long-term, given the premium teams pay for edge rushers.

Landry has had decent sack totals in the past, with 9 sacks in 2019 and 19 sacks total in his first three seasons in the league, but his peripheral pass rush numbers have never been nearly as good as they were last season, with a 9.5% pressure rate across his first three seasons. Given that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he regressed in 2022, but, unless he regresses significantly, he should still remain an above average pass rusher. The Titans also have another highly paid edge defender, signing ex-Steeler Bud Dupree to a 5-year, 82.5 million dollar deal in free agency last off-season. 

Dupree was not worth that contract at all in year one though, struggling across 398 snaps in 11 games in an injury plagued season. Dupree was a risky and questionable signing from the start at that price, so it’s not all that surprising that the contract has looked like a big mistake thus far.

A first round pick by Pittsburgh in 2015, Dupree broke out with 11.5 sacks in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019, after totaling just 20 sacks across his first four seasons in the league, but the Steelers were rightfully skeptical of Dupree’s ability to continue producing at that level long-term, franchise tagging him for the 2020 season, rather than paying up on a big money extension. 

Not only was Dupree a one-year wonder in terms of having double digit sacks in a season, but his peripheral numbers during that double digit season weren’t much better than his peripheral numbers in the past, as his 9.5% pressure rate in 2019 was underwhelming and was in line with his 9.4% pressure rate from his first four seasons in the league, suggesting that his big sack total in 2019 was mostly the result of playing on a dominant defense and getting to clean up after more consistently disruptive pass rushers, rather than being a consistently disruptive pass rusher himself.

Dupree was not bad on the franchise tag in 2020, totaling 8 sacks, 10 hits, and a 11.8% pressure rate in 11 games, but he suffered a torn ACL late in the season, which made him an even more questionable signing on a big, long-term contract. Rather than forcing Dupree to settle for a one-year prove it deal on which he could rehab his value for another trip to free agency, the Titans decided to give him the big money contract the Steelers wouldn’t and, thus far, they have not been rewarded, with Dupree dealing with lingering leg injuries for most of 2021 and, as a result, being ineffective even when on the field. 

Dupree has a good chance to be better and healthier in 2022, another year removed from the injury, but he’s only earned two above average grades from PFF in seven seasons in the league, so his bounce back potential isn’t as high as his contract would suggest. It’s very possible Dupree will be a cap casualty after the season unless he bounces back in a big way, as his 17 million dollar non-guaranteed salary for 2023 would be very tough to justify if he doesn’t improve drastically, especially with Landry also commanding significant money.

Landry, Dupree, and Autry figure to play the vast majority of the snaps on the edge, but they also bring back Olasunkanmi Adeniyi as a reserve, after he played 207 middling snaps last season. The 2018 undrafted free agent has never had a snap total higher than last season and has mostly been underwhelming in his limited career action, but he could remain decent in a similar role in 2022. The Titans could also give an expanded role to 2021 4th round pick Rashad Weaver, who played just 12 snaps as a rookie, but has the potential to develop into a useful player going forward. Even with Landry and Autry coming off career best years that they might not repeat, this is still a talented group, especially if Dupree can give them more this season.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

The Titans’ off ball linebackers are probably the position group that has changed the most for the Titans next last season, with a pair of contributors in Jayon Brown (421 snaps) and Rashaan Evans (445 snaps) no longer with the team and effectively being replaced by Zach Cunningham, a long-time Texan who played the final four games of the season with the Titans last season, after Houston cut him mid-season for disciplinary reasons. He’ll play close to every down and start in base packages opposite David Long, a 2019 6th round pick who finished as PFF’s 23rd ranked off ball linebacker last season in the first significant action of his career, albeit in just 10 games in an injury plagued season.

A consistently above average off ball linebacker across his first four seasons in the league, including a 22nd ranked season among off ball linebackers on PFF in 2019, Cunningham struggled for most of last season in Houston, but he bounced right back to being an above average player after joining the Titans. Despite his strong close to last season, the Titans were still able to get Cunningham to agree to a pay cut for 2022, but he’ll still make good money at 8.5 million, even if it’s down from his previously scheduled 10.5 million. Only in his age 28 season, Cunningham should continue being at least a solid every down starting linebacker for the Titans. Claiming him on waivers from a division rival was a wise move for this franchise.

The Titans also have 2021 3rd round pick Monty Rice, who played 179 snaps as a rookie, but he was middling at best across those snaps and he should enter the season behind David Long on the depth chart, even if Long is still an unproven player who has not played a full season as a starter yet. Long has a good chance to have at least another decent season, but Rice isn’t bad insurance to have if Long regresses or if injuries strike. This isn’t an elite linebacking corps or anything, but it’s a solid group overall.

Grade: B

Secondary

The Titans used the first round pick they got from Philadelphia for AJ Brown on Brown’s replacement, Treylon Burks, but, with their own pick, originally 26th overall, the Titans traded down and drafted Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary with the 35th overall pick, at the top of the second round. This comes after the Titans used the 22nd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft on cornerback Caleb Farley, as well as using a third round pick in 2021 on Elijah Molden and a second round pick in 2020 on Kristian Fulton. This is a very young cornerback group with a lot of upside, but the potential downside and lack of experience is obvious as well.

Veteran Janoris Jenkins led this group with 862 snaps played last season and wasn’t bad, but the Titans opted not to bring him back at a 7 million dollar non-guaranteed salary and will instead go with a youth movement at the position. Farley has the most talent of the bunch and could have been a top-10 pick if not for durability concerns, but those durability concerns continued into his rookie year and limited him to just 60 snaps in 3 games, before a torn ACL ended his season. Farley should be healthy for the start of the 2022 season and still has the upside to develop into a #1 cornerback long-term, but his long-term outlook is clouded by his lack of durability and experience.

Farley will compete with the other three young cornerbacks for playing time. Molden played 632 nondescript snaps as a rookie, while Fulton played 738 nondescript snaps last season, after struggling on 203 rookie year snaps, so neither have proven much yet, but they both have the upside to take a step forward in 2022. McCreary also has a lot of upside, but he could struggle through some growing pains as a rookie.

The only veteran cornerback the Titans have is Buster Skrine, who is going into his age 32 season and his 11th year in the league. It’s impressive that Skrine has lasted this long in the league, but he has never been more than a middling cornerback. He provided some stability to this secondary as a mid-season signing last year, playing 218 regular season snaps and earning an average grade from PFF, but he could easily struggle if forced into significant action again in 2022.

The strength of the Titans’ defense last season was their safeties, with Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker finishing 1st and 5th respectively among safeties on PFF. For Byard, a season like this was nothing new as, even though he has been somewhat inconsistent in his career, he’s still finished in the top-8 among safeties on PFF in three of the past five seasons. Going into his age 29 season, I wouldn’t expect a sudden dropoff from him, although it’s possible that he isn’t able to maintain his high level of play across the whole season, which has been the case for him in some years.

Hooker, meanwhile, had a breakout year last season, after the 2019 4th round pick flashed as a reserve on 335 snaps and 470 snaps in his first two seasons in the league. He’s a one-year wonder in terms of being the high level safety he was last season and even last season he only made 12 starts because of injury, but he should remain at least an above average starter and could develop into one of the best safeties in the league for years to come, still only going into his age 24 season. 

Going into the final year of his rookie deal, Hooker figures to get a top of the market deal at some point, whether from the Titans or from another team on the open market. Depth is a bit of a concern, but the Titans’ have arguably the best safety duo in the league. Their cornerbacks are not nearly as proven, but they have the upside to take a step forward as a group in 2022, though that’s far from a guarantee.

Grade: A-

Special Teams

The Titans finished last season ranked 23rd in special teams DVOA and there’s a good chance they struggle in this aspect again this season. The Titans didn’t make any significant positive changes to this group, keeping punter Brett Kern and kicker Randy Bullock, losing top return man Chester Rogers without a replacement, and losing their top core special teamer Nick Dzubnar, leaving them without a player who finished in the top-50 among special teamers on PFF last season. This looks like it’ll be a below average unit again this season.

Grade: C+

Conclusion

The Titans finished last season at 12-5, with the AFC’s best record and #1 seed by virtue of tiebreakers, 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, while Derrick Henry will probably be healthier this season, he figures to not be nearly as productive as he’s been in the past, given his age, workload, and the declining talent and blocking around him on this offense. 

If the Titans had just brought back last year’s exact team, they would be unlikely to match last year’s 12 wins, given that they benefited from things statistically they won’t be able to rely on going forward, but the Titans are also noticeably less talented on paper than a year ago, so they could easily be worse in efficiency this season than they were last season. If that happens, it’ll be tough for the Titans to make the post-season this year, in the loaded AFC. It helps that they play in the weakest division in their conference and their easiest path back to the post-season is by winning that division, but the Colts looked noticeably better right now, having upgraded their quarterback situation this off-season, while the Titans have seen their roster decline.  I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: TBD, TBD in AFC South

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans: 2021 AFC Divisional Round Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (11-7) at Tennessee Titans (12-5)

The Titans finished with tied for the best record in the AFC and won the AFC’s #1 seed on tiebreakers, but they overall did not have as impressive of a season as some other teams in the AFC. Their 12-5 record is supported by a 6-2 record in one-score games and their +65 point differential ranks just 11th in the NFL, despite the fact that they have a +4 margin in return touchdowns, giving them an extra 28 points. Return touchdown margin is not predictive week-to-week, especially since the Titans finished with a -3 turnover margin, and, if not for those four return touchdowns, the Titans would rank just 13th in point differential at +37. 

The Bengals, meanwhile, rank 8th with a +84 point differential, despite having a worse record than the Titans. If you include their playoff victory over the Raiders and exclude their week 18 loss to the Browns where they rested their starters, that point differential becomes +96. Despite that, the Bengals are underdogs of 3.5 points here in Tennessee, which is more significant than you might think, with about 1 in 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer. 

That line expects the Titans to be significantly better than they have been in the regular season, as a result of their improved health on offense. The Titans’ offense had significant injury issues in the second half of the season, but wide receivers AJ Brown (three games missed) and Julio Jones (four games missed) and offensive linemen Rodger Saffold (two games), Taylor Lewan (two games), and Nate Davis (three games) have all returned after missing time, while feature back Derrick Henry (ten games) is expected to rejoin the lineup this week to complete this offense.

However, even at full health, I don’t have the Titans worth being favored by this many points over the Bengals, as they had just a +32 point differential through eight games before Henry and company went down. On top of that, there is no guarantee that Henry is at full strength in his first game back. We’re not getting a lot of line value with the Bengals, but my calculated line has the Titans favored by just 2 points, so the Bengals definitely have a good chance to cover this spread. There isn’t quite enough here for the Titans to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Update: It looks like Henry will split carries with Dont’a Foreman if he plays, which drops my calculated line a little to 1.5, while simultaneously this line has moved up to 4. I think there is enough here for a bet on Cincinnati, who were the better team in the regular season in all of the more predictive metrics, including schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, in which they held a 2.5-point edge. Even if the Titans are healthier, it’s hard to get this line all the way up to 4, especially since the Bengals still hold the edge in my roster rankings even with the Titans’ offense close to full strength, as Joe Burrow has shown significant improvement as the season has gone on and, now with his knee injury clearly in the rear review, has broken out as a legitimate top level quarterback.

Tennessee Titans 24 Cincinnati Bengals 23

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (11-5) at Houston Texans (4-12)

The Titans lost to the Texans by nine points in Tennessee a few weeks ago, but that was a very fluky game in which the Titans won the first down rate battle by 9.47% and the yards per play battle by 2.25 yards per play, but lost because they lost the turnover margin by five, which is not predictive at all. In fact, teams that lose the turnover battle by 5 against a divisional opponent on average have a turnover margin of -0.1 in a same season revenge game.

The Texans have won four games, but they are still arguably the worst team in the league, as they have had some non-predictive things go their way in three of their four wins, with the exception being a week one win at home against a terrible Jaguars team, when the Texans were starting veteran Tyrod Taylor and had a much healthier offensive line. In their second win over the Jaguars a couple weeks ago, Texans lost the first down rate battle by 8.02%, only winning the game because they overperformed on third down (10/18 vs. 3/14), which is not as predictive as early downs.

In their upset win over the Chargers, the Texans won the turnover battle by 3, but lost the first down rate and yards per play battle by 2.86% and 0.49 against the Chargers. Meanwhile, in the Texans’ losses, they are getting outscored by 18.33 points per game. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on first down rate and yards per play, the Texans still rank 32nd on offense, 30th on defense, and dead last in mixed efficiency, about three points behind the second worst team.

The Titans have gone 5-2 in one-score games and are not the same offense without Derrick Henry, but Henry has not been their only absence in recent weeks and, aside from Henry being out, the Titans are as healthy on offense as they’ve been since Henry went down, with their whole offensive line back together and their top two wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones in the lineup. They’re healthier than they were the first time they played the Texans and if they win the first down rate and yards per play battle by large margins again, that should translate on the scoreboard this time. This line is high, favoring the Titans by 10 on the road, but my calculated line is Tennessee -11.5 and the Texans have nine double digit losses this season, so there’s at least enough here for the Titans to be worth taking for pick ‘em purposes.

Tennessee Titans 24 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -10

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (8-7) at Tennessee Titans (10-5)

The Dolphins started the season 1-7, but have since won seven straight games and have become a trendy sleeper pick. It’s understandable why, as the Dolphins seem to have a knack for getting better as the season goes under third-year head coach Brian Flores, starting 0-7 in Flores’ first season in 2019 before going 5-4 in their last 9 games, and starting 1-3 in 2020 before going 9-3 in their last 12 games. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

For one, the Dolphins were not as good as their 10-6 record suggested last year, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). On top of that, the Dolphins’ winning streak this year is largely the result of them having a very easy schedule.

During their 7-game winning streak, the Dolphins have faced just two teams with a record better than 5-10, one being the Baltimore Ravens, who were in a near impossible spot playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams have covered just 3 out of 28 times historically, and the other being the New Orleans Saints last week, who were starting a fourth string quarterback behind a skeleton crew offensive line, also a near impossible situation. Aside from the Saints and Ravens, the other five teams the Dolphins have beaten on their winning streak are a combined 21-54. 

Despite the easy schedule on their long winning streak, the Dolphins are still negative in point differential and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they have been even worse as, not only have they faced a relatively easy schedule overall, but they have significantly overperformed expectations on third downs on offense, ranking 13th in third down conversion rate, but just 30th in both first down rate and in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency. Over-performing on third downs tends not to be sustainable long-term and, while the Dolphins do rank 11th in schedule adjusted efficiency on defense, their poor offensive rank drags their overall mixed efficiency down to 26th in the NFL.

The Dolphins’ schedule gets tougher this week, as they take a trip to Tennessee. The Titans’ 10-5 record is in part due to a 5-2 record in one-score games and they haven’t been nearly as good on offense since losing feature back Derrick Henry, averaging about a yard per play less in the seven games since he got hurt, but they have gotten back top wide receiver AJ Brown, starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, starting left guard Rodger Saffold, and starting right guard Nate Davis, who have all missed time in recent weeks as well, so they are still significantly healthier than they have been even if Henry remains out. 

The Titans might also have wide receiver Julio Jones available for this one, another key offensive player who has missed time recently, but he is still in COVID protocols, as is Denico Autry, a key player on the defensive side of the ball. My calculated line even without Jones and Autry in the lineup favors the Titans by 4.5, so we are getting line value with them as 3.5-point favorites either way, but, at the same time, even if Jones and Autry play, I don’t see there being enough line value for the Titans to be worth betting on unless this line drops to 3, as a field goal win by the Titans is definitely a strong possibility.

Tennessee Titans 24 Miami Dolphins 19

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3.5

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (8-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-5)

The Titans have a better record than the 49ers, but more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate show the 49ers to be a significantly better team, especially when you take into account that they have faced a tougher schedule than the Titans. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the 49ers rank 8th, 10th, 24th, and 7th respectively in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, while the Titans rank 21st, 12th, 22nd, and 21st respectively.

The 49ers are also in a better injury situation than the Titans. They’re still far from 100%, missing their two best cornerbacks, their three best running backs, and several other contributors, including defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey. However, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams, linebacker Fred Warner, and safety Jimmie Ward are all among their most important players and they have all some missed time and since returned, which has allowed this team to play some of their best football in recent weeks. 

The Titans, on the other hand, have not been playing their best football in recent weeks, primarily on offense, in large part due to injuries. After averaging 5.49 yards per play through the first eight games of the season (most equivalent to 17th in the NFL), the Titans have seen that average drop to 4.51 yards per play (most equivalent to 31st in the NFL) over the past six games, a stretch in which feature back Derrick Henry has missed every game, talented wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones have missed three games each, and starting left guard Rodger Saffold has missed 1 game. 

Brown and Jones will play this week, with the former returning from his 3-game absence for the first time, but Saffold and Henry remain out, while talented left tackle Taylor Lewan will join them, meaning they will still be down their most important offensive player and a pair of talented offensive linemen for this matchup. Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the 49ers in the past week, with this line shifting from even on the early line last week to now favoring the 49ers by 3.5 points, a significant swing given that about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer. 

The weird part is there isn’t an obvious factor that caused that shift. The 49ers won big over the Falcons last week, but the Falcons are one of the worst teams in the league, while the Titans’ loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh likely would have gone the other way had the Titans not lost the turnover battle by 4 in a 6-point loss. Turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so it’s very likely the Titans will have a better turnover margin in this matchup. On top of that, none of the injuries that have occured in the past week for these two teams are significant enough for this line to shift like this.

Most likely, this line shift is the result of the public and odds makers catching up to how good the 49ers are, after a stretch in which they were regularly underrated and, as a result, covered in five of their past six games. My calculated line is exactly where this line is at San Francisco -3.5, so we’re not getting any value with either side as a result of that massive line movement. I am still taking the 49ers for pick ‘em purposes, but this could easily be a field goal win by the 49ers, so I can’t be confident in them.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3.5

Confidence: None

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)

The Steelers are 6-6-1, but they haven’t been nearly as good as their record. While their six wins have come by just a combined 26 points, with none by more than one score, four of their six losses have come by multiple scores, with the only exceptions being games in which they still lost the first down rate and yards per play battles by 12.24% and 3.1 respectively against the Chargers and 2.22% and 1.4 respectively against the Vikings. On the season, the Steelers rank just 28th, 26th, 20th, and 27th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency.

The Titans aren’t as good as their record either, as they have gone 4-1 in one score games and have not nearly been as good on offense since losing top wide receiver AJ Brown and feature back Derrick Henry, but they have the better record at 9-4 and, even if they aren’t as good as their record, they are still clearly the better of these two teams because the Steelers aren’t as good as their record either. Despite that, the Titans are underdogs of 1.5 points in Pittsburgh, suggesting the odds makers and the public view the Titans as only marginally better than the Steelers, if they view them as better at all. 

My calculated line has the Titans favored by 2.5 points and you could justify favoring them by the full field goal on the road, as the Steelers are legitimately a well below average team overall, not performing well in any of the three phases of the game. This is one matchup where neither team has been affected by positive COVID tests this week and with the line having already swung in Pittsburgh’s favor, I don’t expect to get a better number with the Titans, so this is a bet I want to lock in now. The money line is the best value, but the Titans are worth a bet against the spread as well at +1.5.

Tennessee Titans 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) at Tennessee Titans (8-4)

The Titans don’t have a lot of blowout wins, as their 8-4 record is powered by a 4-1 record in one score games, and their offense has been significantly worse since losing feature back Derrick Henry and top wide receiver AJ Brown, while their defense remains without would-be starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley, expected starting edge defender Bud Dupree, and key run stuffing defensive lineman Teair Tart. 

However, the Titans will at least get wide receiver Julio Jones back this week, while the Jaguars are the type of team the Titans should be able to beat by multiple scores, even when not at 100%, as the Jaguars are 2-10, rank 30th in the NFL with a -140 point differential, and have seven losses by multiple scores. My calculated line has the Titans favored by 10, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with them as 8.5-point favorites, but not nearly enough to bet them confidently.

Tennessee Titans 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -8.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-8) at Tennessee Titans (8-2)

Expected by many to be the worst team in the league this season, the Texans surprisingly won their week one game by double digits, but everything has been downhill since then. Their win no longer looks impressive, as their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have proven to also be one of the worst teams in the league and, on top of that, the Texans haven’t won since, losing 8 straight games with most of them not being close, averaging a margin of defeat of 18.3 points.

The Texans are coming off their bye week and got starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury in their last game before the bye, for the first time since week 2, but the Texans still lost to the lowly Dolphins even with Taylor back in the lineup. It was primarily Taylor’s strong play that led the Texans to their week one victory, but the career journeyman can’t be counted on to play that well for an extended period of time and, while he was out, the Texans lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil to injury, knocking out arguably their best player and one of their few building blocks. At least until Tunsil returns, it’s hard to find situations where the Texans would be worth picking.

This seems like one of them though. The Titans are 9-2, but most of their wins have been close, with just two of their wins coming by double digits, relevant considering they are 10-point favorites in this matchup. Their offense also isn’t nearly as good without injured feature back Derrick Henry and, to a lesser extent, injured wide receiver Julio Jones. The Titans have won both of their games without Henry, but their offense did not perform effectively in either. 

They beat the Rams convincingly on the scoreboard, winning by 12 for one of their two double digit wins on the season, but the Titans also gained just 3.5 yards per play and it would have at least been a much closer game if the Titans’ defense did not get two pick sixes, which won’t happen every week. That game was then followed up last week to a near loss at home to the Saints, who were missing several key offensive players. They should move to 10-2 with a win here, but I would question if their offense can be effective enough to win this game by double digits, even against a terrible Texans defense. 

My calculated line still suggests we should take the Titans, but the Titans are also in a terrible spot, with a much bigger and tougher game against the Patriots on deck next week. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.5% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is 50% higher or more than their current opponent’s winning percentage and that is the case in this matchup. I definitely would not recommend betting the Texans, but this seems like a rare case where they make a little bit more sense for pick ‘em purposes, as the Titans are likely to look completely past the Texans, on a long winning streak, with a huge matchup on deck.

Tennessee Titans 23 Houston Texans 14

Pick against the spread: Houston +10

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-2)

The Titans won in their first game without Derrick Henry last week, an impressive upset victory in Los Angeles against the Rams, but there is still a lot of reason to be concerned, after this offense managed just 3.5 yards per play. The Titans won’t be able to get two pick sixes in the same game every week like they did against the Rams and it looks likely that their offense will be taking a big step back without Derrick Henry. Making matters even worse, they seem likely to be without talented wide receiver Julio Jones, who re-aggravated his hamstring injury in practice this week. However, somehow the Titans are only 3-point home favorites against the Saints, so it’s not as if they are overrated, at least not any more than the Saints are. 

The Saints are 5-3 and have one of the best defenses in the league, but their offense is in even worse shape than the Titans’ offense, as the Titans still at least have a solid quarterback and a legitimate #1 receiver. The Saints, meanwhile, are starting a backup quarterback in Trevor Siemian, with a receiving corps that is one of the least experienced in the league, without expected #1 receiver Michael Thomas, stud left tackle Terron Armstead, and now they are without talented feature back Alvin Kamara, which is almost as big of a loss as Henry. My calculated line has Tennessee favored by 5, so we’re getting line value with Tennessee -3, though not quite enough to bet this confidently.

Tennessee Titans 19 New Orleans Saints 14

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Low