Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)

Typically, in non-divisional Thursday games like this one, the smart move is to pick the better team if they are at home. Non-divisional home favorites of 4+ are 22-11 ATS on Thursday Night Football all-time. It’s understandably very tough to face a superior opponent on the road on a short week, especially if they are an unfamiliar non-divisional opponent. The Steelers are the superior team here, but the problem is this line is pretty high at 7. I have these teams about 3 points apart. Even if we give the Steelers 4 points for homefield advantage on a short week, that doesn’t leave us any line value. Given that, I’m going to take the points for a no confidence pick. If this line moves to 6.5 before game time, I’ll switch to Pittsburgh. That’s how close this one is for me.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

CHI +3 vs. DET

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +7

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-3)

I’ve had the Titans as a top-10 team for most of the season, especially now with Marcus Mariota seemingly healthy again. Last week, I took the Titans as 3.5 point home favorites over the Ravens for a high confidence pick and lost it at the end when the Ravens led a garbage time touchdown drive down 10 points to cut the final score to 3, with 46 seconds left in the game. This week, the Titans are 4.5 point home favorites over the Bengals, who are a similar team to the Ravens. Like the Ravens, they have major offensive problems, but they have a top-10 defense that can cause problems for the opposing offense.

Unlike last week, I am not taking the Titans for anything more than a no confidence pick because they have to play again in Pittsburgh in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, a much bigger game. Favorites are 61-93 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and understandably so. The Titans could easily look past the Bengals a little bit and let them keep this one close, so I can’t be confident in the Titans this week, though they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Tennessee Titans 19 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -4.5

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-3)

The Titans are 4-3 coming out of their bye and lead the AFC South, but I’ve been a little bit disappointed with them. Coming into the season, I had them at 11-5 and as one of the more talented and complete teams in the league. They were a year removed from a solid 9-7 season and did a good job addressing needs this off-season, but they’ve been underwhelming in their 4-3 start. The good news is they haven’t suffered any major long-term injuries and they come out of the bye about as healthy as any team in the league.

Free agent acquisition safety Johnathan Cyprien is expected to return for the first time since week 1, #5 overall pick wide receiver Corey Davis expected to return for the first time since week 2, and quarterback Marcus Mariota is likely healthier now 5 weeks removed from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss a game and a half and limited him in 2 games after his return. Guard Quinton Spain and tight end Delanie Walker could be out for this one, so they’re not at 100%, but those are short-term injuries and no team is completely healthy right now. Their best football should still be ahead of them and they could easily go on a run in what is overall a weak league right now.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are 4-4, but have major issues on offense, with just 12 offensive touchdowns in 8 games, thanks in large part to injuries to guys like Marshal Yanda and Danny Woodhead. Their defense has played well, but they’ve faced a pretty easy schedule, with their wins coming against the Bengals, Browns, EJ Manuel led Raiders, and Matt Moore led Dolphins. Even the teams they’ve lost to have had offensive issues, including the Jaguars, the Bears, and the Case Keenum led Vikings. They’re not a terrible team, but I think the difference between these two teams talent wise is more than this line suggests at Tennessee -3.5, given that the Titans are at home. I have this line calculated at -6.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Titans. They should be a smart play this week.

Tennessee Titans 24 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3.5

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-6)

The Browns rank dead last in the NFL with a -9 turnover margin. Usually I like to bet on teams with bad turnover margins because turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but the Browns’ quarterback situation is so bad that I can’t bet them unless we’re getting a lot of line value. On the season, they’ve thrown 14 interceptions (9 by Kizer and 5 by Hogan), while no other team has thrown more than 8, and that is the single biggest factor in their turnover margin.

I thought we were getting a lot of value last week with the Browns when they were 10-point underdogs against the Texans, who were missing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but Kevin Hogan played so bad in his first career start that the Browns didn’t have a chance to compete in that game. The Browns will go back to DeShone Kizer this week, which is probably an upgrade by default, but Kizer has had his own problems turning the ball over and we’re not getting the same value with the Browns that we were getting last week, as they are 6 point home underdogs against the Titans. I have this line calculated at -5.5.

The Browns are also in a tough spot with a trip to London on deck. Teams are just 14-24 ATS all-time before a trip over to London and the Browns have a tough game waiting for them there, as the early line has them as 7.5 point underdogs on the neutral field against the Vikings. Teams are just 52-85 ATS since 2008 as 6+ point underdogs before being 6+ point underdogs again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. I can’t bet on the Titans because of the uncertainty with Marcus Mariota’s injury, but, if he’s close to 100% in his 2nd game back from the hamstring injury, the Titans should win this easily.

Tennessee Titans 24 Cleveland Browns 16

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -6

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 6 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-3) at Tennessee Titans (2-3)

The line for this game has finally posted, as the Titans open as 7.5 point home favorites over the Colts, with Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota expected to return from a one-game absence with a hamstring injury. Both are these teams are 2-3, but the Titans’ wins have come over the Jaguars and the Seahawks, a pair of quality opponents, by a combined 27 points, while the Colts’ two wins have come against the 49ers and Browns, two of the worst teams in the league, by a combined 6 points.

With Mariota returning, the Titans are an above average team, while the Colts are among the least talented in the league as long as quarterback Andrew Luck remains out. Joining Luck on the Colts’ injury report is talented left guard Jack Mewhort, who could be done for the season with a knee injury, a big blow an already weak offensive line. I like the Titans this week, but this line is too high for me to bet anything on them confidently. I have this line calculated at -10, but the Titans come with extra risk this week because Mariota will likely be at less than 100%.

Tennessee Titans 27 Indianapolis Colts 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -7.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 5 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)

The Titans had a week from hell last week, as they lost 57-14 in Houston in a game in which they lost quarterback Marcus Mariota with an injury. It was an eerily similar game to their 38-17 loss in Jacksonville in week 16 of last season, when Mariota broke his leg. Those are the only two losses by more than 10 points for a Tennessee team that has generally played well over the past couple seasons. They were even able to win at home against the Texans without Mariota week 17 last year.

Mariota’s injury isn’t as serious as last season, as he only has a hamstring pull, but his mobility will be severely limited in this one, if he can even play. Given that they’re playing the Dolphins, they may opt to hold him out. The Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the league and should be 0-3 right now, if not for 2 missed makeable field goals by the Chargers week 1. They rank dead last in first down rate differential at -9.07%, despite a relatively easy schedule (Chargers, Jets, and Saints). They can beat them with a run heavy offense and Matt Cassel under center.

The Titans are also in a good spot as teams tend to bounce back off of blowout losses, going 54-29 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35 or more. Teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after big losses like that and they tend to bounce back as a result. That being said, I can’t take them with any confidence as 3 point road favorites, even as bad as the Dolphins are. I have this line calculated right at -3, with Tennessee’s uncertainty at quarterback factored in, and I wouldn’t want to bet anything on the Titans even if Mariota does end up playing, given how limited he would be. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Sunday Update: Marcus Mariota is out for the Titans and the line has shifted to -1.5 in favor of the Dolphins. Even with Matt Cassel out there instead of Mariota, I have this line at -2.5 in favor of the Titans, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Titans, even if it’s between the field goals. The Dolphins are a terrible team and are in a tough spot in what will be a week 5 home opener for them. Teams are 27-55 ATS since 1989 in week 3 home openers and the Dolphins have already played games in Los Angeles, New York, and London before returning home to Miami, where they have little homefield advantage anyway (27-42 ATS since 2008, including 12-27 ATS as favorites). The Titans had a bad week last week, but are still a talented team and they should be able to execute a run heavy offense well enough to bounce back from a blowout and win this game. This is still only a low confidence pick, but it’s worth a small bet on the money line at +105.

Tennessee Titans 19 Miami Dolphins 17 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 4 NFL Pick

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

I thought the Texans were one of the more overrated teams in the league going into the New England game and, now after their near win, I think they’re even more overrated. Deshaun Watson did a great job of extending plays, but he was going against a front 7 that’s one of the weakest in the league without Dont’a Hightower. He also showed bad judgement on several throws downfield, something that was an issue for him in his first start against Cincinnati and in his collegiate days at Clemson, where he was interception prone.

Watson led just one touchdown drive in his first start against the Bengals and that was on a long run he broke on the ground. The Titans have a comparable defense and should be able to keep him in the pocket much more easily than the Patriots. Watson could be a good quarterback someday, but he’s still very early in his development and his offensive supporting cast is one of the worst in the league. He should have a lot of trouble this week, especially since Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 21-2 against rookie quarterbacks in his legendary career.

The Texans’ defense could keep them in the game at home, but outside of their front 7 they just aren’t that good of a team. They have an average at best secondary, after losing AJ Bouye and Quintin Demps this off-season and losing Kevin Johnson to injury. The Titans, meanwhile, are one of the most well-rounded teams in the league and they and are a great value as mere 2 point road favorites here. I have this line calculated at -5.5, so this is my Pick of the Week, as the Titans basically just need to win straight up to cover here.

Tennessee Titans 23 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2

Confidence: Pick of the Week