Given sensationalized media reaction, you’d have thought star running back Derrick Henry rushed for 300 yards and seven touchdowns in the Tennessee Titans’ upset of the New England Patriots last weekend.
He had a great game, rushing for 182 yards against an elite defense. Bettors need to realize that Tennessee’s offense as a whole scored only 14 points. The Titans’ last TD came on a pick-six. Their offense scored points on only two of nine drives and was shut out for all of crunch time in the second half.
Henry hasn’t revolutionized football yet.
Betting markets have properly kept things in perspective. Tennessee should close as a 9- to 10-point underdog at Baltimore in the second game of Saturday’s NFL divisional round doubleheader.
— Baltimore (-9.5) vs. Tennessee (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Tennessee: No. 12 offense, No. 21 defense, No. 23 schedule, plus-6 turnover margin
Baltimore: No. 2 offense, No. 4 defense, No. 22 schedule, plus-10 turnover margin
Stat rankings are from the regular season. Strength-of-schedule rankings are from Jeff Sagarin’s market-respected data at USA Today. You can see that the Titans and Ravens played comparable schedules. That makes Baltimore’s dominance across the other categories very relevant. Combine those with home-field advantage and an extra week of rest and preparation, and you can see why the point spread is so high.
The case for Baltimore: Betting markets are still trailing a championship-caliber force that’s 9-1 against the spread in its last 10 outings, including wins over playoff teams by scores of 30-16 at Seattle, 37-20 vs. New England and 41-7 vs. Houston. Plus the Ravens have had a week to develop a strategy for containing Henry.
The case for Tennessee: Henry’s ground game can once again keep the clock running, making it hard for an expensive favorite to pull away. Ryan Tannehill is capable of throwing touchdown passes in garbage time to sneak through the back door if needed. If mental or defensive pressure gets to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Titans could spring another upset.
In this week’s betting, the public has backed Baltimore. It’s consistent with historical preferences to ask talented, rested home favorites to win blowouts. Squares are laying 9.5 or less. Sharps take Tennessee plus-10 for value when it pops up. Sportsbooks will manage exposure based on those dynamics.
Before Saturday’s twinbill kicks off, let’s update futures prices and VSiN’s estimated market Power Ratings:
William Hill’s NFL championship odds: Ravens 9/5, 49ers 3/1, Chiefs 3/1, Packers 15/2, Seahawks 12/1, Vikings 18/1, Texans 35/1, Titans 35/1.
VSiN’s market ratings based on settled late-week point spreads and futures prices, compiled in collaboration with Jonathan Von Tobel (“The Edge”): Ravens 89, Chiefs 88, 49ers 86, Titans 83, Packers 83, Vikings 82, Seahawks 82, Texans 82.
You can use those to project likely point spreads for next week’s conference championships by adding three points for home-field advantage. Should the favorites win, Baltimore would probably open around -4 at home vs. Kansas City and San Francisco around -6 vs. Green Bay.