Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots: 2017 AFC Divisional Round Pick

Tennessee Titans (10-7) at New England Patriots (13-3)

The Titans pulled off a stunning upset in Kansas City last week, not only winning straight up as 8-point road underdogs, but coming back from down 21-3 at the half. I wasn’t that impressed with their performance though. I’ve thought for a while that the Chiefs were an overrated team and, even still, the Titans likely would not have had a real chance to come back if the Chiefs didn’t lose tight end Travis Kelce with an injury late in the first half. Losing him completely shut down their offense and even one good drive in the second half probably would have been enough to ice the game, given that the game was only decided by a point. Even without Kelce, you could argue the Chiefs deserved to win because of a few questionable calls by the officials that did not go their way.

On paper, the Titans have a solid roster, but they are poorly coached, especially on offense, where offensive minded head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie have been unable to design an offense that suits quarterback Marcus Mariota’s skill set. They went 9-7 in the regular season, but were tied with the Jaguars for the easiest schedule in the NFL and still finished with a -22 point differential, by far the worst among remaining playoff teams (the Patriots finished first at +162). This line is substantial at -13 and the Titans are still a talented team on paper, so I am not that confident in the Patriots, but this should still be a relatively easy playoff win for New England.

New England Patriots 34 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: New England -13

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

The Chiefs won the AFC West at 10-6, but I think they are one of the weaker qualifiers, given how reliant they were on winning the turnover battle this season. Despite having the 2nd best turnover margin in the league at +15, they finished just 10th in point differential at +76. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so the Chiefs won’t be able to rely on that going forward. For example, teams that finish the regular season with a turnover margin of +15 or better, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.3 per game in the postseason and are just 28-41 ATS as a result. The Chiefs’ turnover margin was driven in large part by a 63.64% rate of recovering fumbles, 3rd in the NFL, which more luck than anything.

The Titans, on the other hand, have had terrible fumble luck, as they rank dead last in the NFL with a 33.33% rate of recovering fumbles. As a result, they had a turnover margin of -4 in the regular season, so, unlike the Chiefs, they were not overly reliant on winning the turnover battle this season. They did have a very easy schedule, but they went 4-2 against teams with a winning record, so they’ve been competitive with tough teams. They also have just 3 losses by more than a touchdown all season. Kansas City’s defense has a lot of problems getting off the field if they can’t force takeaways, so the Titans should be able to keep this one close and possibly pull the upset.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +8

Confidence: High

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)

The Jaguars are a prime candidate to rest their starters in week 17, as they are locked into the 3rd seed in the AFC. That seemed to be the expectation earlier in the week when they opened as 6-point underdogs in Tennessee, but Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said earlier this week that the Jaguars are going to treat this like a normal game. That caused this line to shift to Tennessee -3. That’s still a big line movement from the early line last week, when Jacksonville was favored by 3.5, but the Jaguars’ big loss in San Francisco last week probably has a lot to do with that.

That’s a big overreaction though, as the 49ers have been a solid opponent in recent weeks and the Jaguars only lost the first down rate battle by -1.40%, despite losing the game by 11. The reason they lost by that many points is because they lost the turnover battle by 2, but turnover margin tends to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. Case in point, prior to last week, the Jaguars had the 2nd best turnover margin in the NFL at +15 and still rank 3rd at +13. Under normal circumstances, I would probably place a bet on the Jaguars at +3 because I have this line calculated at even, but there’s no guarantee they play their starters for the whole game, so this is just a low confidence pick.

Tennessee Titans 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 19

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Before the season, I had the Titans as a top-10 team and a candidate to get a first round bye in the AFC, after finishing last season just outside of the playoffs at 9-7 and adding talent at positions of need this off-season. The Titans have a solid 8-6 record, but they are definitely not in the running for a first round bye and they have not even been as good as that record suggests. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown all season (as opposed to 4 losses by more than a touchdown) and two of those wins were single score games until long, meaningless garbage time touchdowns by Derrick Henry late in the game. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 16th at -0.25%, despite having the easiest schedule in the NFL.

Their schedule gets tougher over the next two games, with the Rams and Jaguars coming to town and they probably need to win at least one of those games to have a shot at the post-season. The tougher schedule might not be terrible news for them though. They are relatively healthy for this point in the season and, on paper, this is still a top-10 team talentwise, but they are poorly coached under Mike Mularkey and his staff and have played down to the level of their competition. The good news is they’ve also played up to their level of competition, as they are 3-1 against playoff teams, with convincing wins over the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Ravens, and their one loss coming on the road in Pittsburgh on a short week.

The Titans might not win straight up here against the Rams, but the Rams’ blowout victory in Seattle last week shifted this line from Rams -3.5 to Rams -7, so we have a good cushion to work with. I still have this line calculated at -3, as the Rams’ strong performance last week was largely the result of Seattle being incredibly banged up at linebacker. The Rams probably would have still won if the Seahawks were healthy in the linebacking corps, but I think we’re getting too much line value with the Titans this week to pass on. I like this line less at 6.5, but this is a high confidence pick if you can get the full touchdown.

Los Angeles Rams 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +7

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

This is one of the tougher games of the week for me. I’ve had the Titans as a top-10 team all season and their record at 8-5 looks pretty good, but it’s hard to deny how underwhelming they’ve been lately. If it weren’t for front door covers on long garbage time touchdown runs by Derrick Henry against both the Colts and the Texans, the Titans would have covered the spread just once in the last 10 weeks and that was a 4-point win as 3-point road favorites in Indianapolis.

With a tougher schedule and worse luck in close games, they could easily be a 5-to-7 win team right now and they aren’t as talented as they were earlier in the year, with quarterback Marcus Mariota banged up and Derrick Morgan and DaQuan Jones out with injury in the front seven on defense. This is still a talented roster despite injuries, but they don’t seem well coached, so they could continue to underperform like they have for the past couple months.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have won back-to-back games since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as starting quarterback and have been playing much better defense in recent weeks thanks to the play of rookies Ahkello Witherspoon and Reuben Foster. However, those two wins came against the Bears and Texans and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on this roster, especially with right tackle Trent Brown out for the year. This line is at San Francisco -2, so we’re not really getting line value with them like we had been in recent weeks.

The Titans are also in a good spot in their second of two road games. Teams are 258-276 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.90 points per game, as opposed to 379-525 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.95 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. They’re in an especially good spot because they lost last week, as road underdogs are 121-80 ATS in their second of two road games off of a road loss. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -2.5, but I can’t be confident in the Titans at +2 because we might not know quite how bad Marcus Mariota is injured or quite how good Jimmy Garoppolo is. The money line does make some sense though.

Sunday Update: This line has moved to +3 in some places Sunday morning. That’s worth a small bet if you can get it. The Titans are more talented than they’ve played lately and the 49ers still have a lot of holes on their roster.

Tennessee Titans 19 San Francisco 49ers 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Arizona Cardinals: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (8-4) at Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

The Titans were high on my underrated list to start the season and have been a frequent bet of mine this season as a result. They are exceeding many people’s expectations at 8-4, but I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with them. They needed long, meaningless touchdowns at the end of the game against the Colts and Texans to cover those spreads. If not for those touchdowns, they would just have one cover since week 3 and that cover was a 4-point win as 3-point favorites in Indianapolis two weeks ago.

They’d also have just 1 win by more than a touchdown all season without those two touchdowns, despite the fact that they’ve had a very easy schedule. Their last 6 wins have come against the Colts (x2), the Texans, the Browns, the Ravens, and the Bengals and none of those wins would have come by more than a touchdown without those two meaningless touchdowns. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 20th at -0.85%. They also have a -16 point differential on the season and that includes those two meaningless touchdowns.

I’ve had them as a top-10 team talentwise all season, but their coaching staff is underwhelming and seems to be holding them back. On top of that, they are dealing with some injuries to starters right now, something that’s been a rarity for this team over the past couple years. Valuable base package run stuffing defensive end Da’Quan Jones is out for the season, while starting outside linebacker Derrick Morgan will miss this game at the very least.

All of that being said, I am going to be placing a bet on the Titans again this week because we are getting too much line value with Tennessee -2.5. Only about 9% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer, so the Titans basically have to just win straight up here to cover, which they shouldn’t have a ton of trouble doing against the Cardinals, even in Arizona. With Blaine Gabbert under center and all of the other injuries the Cardinals have suffered this season, they are one of the 4 or 5 worst teams in the league. I have this line calculated at -4.5, even as underwhelming as the Titans have been thus far this season. Considering about 20% of games are decided by 3-4 points, that’s a significant amount of line value. The Titans are worth a bet if you can get 2.5.

Tennessee Titans 24 Arizona Cardinals 19

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Last week, the Texans were 7 point underdogs in Baltimore and I bet against them. The Texans managed a push, but didn’t get in the end zone on their final 11 drives, after scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game, when the Ravens committed 3 dumb penalties for 39 yards to keep the drive moving. Tom Savage had yet another horrible game, only managing big plays when DeAndre Hopkins or Baltimore’s penalties bailed him out, and he will be the starter again this week because of the lack of a better option. In a season where many teams have questionable quarterback situations, Savage is arguably the worst starting quarterback who has seen extended action.

Despite that, the Texans are just 6.5 point underdogs here in Tennessee, a half point lower than they were last week in Baltimore. And considering about 9% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown, it’s a big half point. Tennessee is undoubtedly a better team than the Ravens, who have one of the worst offenses in the league. The Titans beat the Ravens earlier this year in a game they led by 10 until a garbage time touchdown cut the lead to a field goal with less than a minute left. I have this line calculated at -11.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the Titans at 6.5. Without Quarterback Deshaun Watson, left tackle Duane Brown, wide receiver Will Fuller, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Texans are arguably the least talented team in the league, while the Titans are a borderline top-10 team and one of the healthiest teams in the whole league.

The Texans are in a great spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss. Teams are 119-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 256-269 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.78 points per game, as opposed to 377-521 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. That being said, we’re still getting enough line value with the Titans that this is my Pick of the Week. This line is at 7 still in some places, but I would wait for 6.5, even if you have to pay a little extra juice.

Tennessee Titans 24 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week