Is Tennessee the team that time forgot?
In a high-scoring 2018 pro football season, the Tennessee Titans seem stuck in the past. They can’t drive the field consistently. They can’t find the end zone. Against quality defenses, they seem to be moving backward.
We were going to set up tonight’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (ESPN, 8:20 p.m. ET) by preparing a chart of Tennessee’s lousy offensive stat rankings. But the Titans ranked #30 in enough categories that its quicker to just say they’re worse than everyone but Arizona and Buffalo. Two expansion-caliber teams starting rookie (or worse) quarterbacks.
Tennessee signal caller Marcus Mariota is in his FOURTH season as a starter.
Granting that Mariota has been slowed by a pinched nerve in his elbow, this offense still shouldn’t be at a standstill. He’s supposed to make things happen with his legs. Look at these recent lowlights vs. quality defenses.
Tennessee Stuck in Cement
12 points at Buffalo on 4.2 yards-per-play
9 points at Jacksonville on 3.9 yards-per-play
0 points vs. Baltimore on 2.6 yards per play
Relevant stats because Buffalo entered the weekend ranked #6 in the NFL in total defense, Jacksonville #2, and Baltimore #1. Dallas is currently #3…putting the Cowboys in the class that’s already known to bully the Titans’ limited offense.
Betting markets have been adjusting Tennessee down since it lost 13-12 at Buffalo.
- Tennessee was plus 2.5 at home against Baltimore. That’s the same as 5.5 points worse on a neutral field (if you accept the standard three points for home field advantage). You’re not a playoff contender if you’re that much worse than the Ravens. Particularly if you then lose the game 21-0!
- Tennessee was plus 7 on a neutral field in London against the Los Angeles Chargers. Same market theme there. Being a touchdown worse than the Chargers is basically 6-10 caliber (though Tennessee did cover on a late TD).
- Tennessee will be around plus 4.5 at kickoff in Dallas. A nod to the effort overseas, but still not a point spread that would reflect a playoff contender visiting the Cowboys.
While there is understandable appeal to betting “defensive dogs” who have a chance to keep a game close with great defense, you normally have to get something on the board to cover short or medium spreads.
Can Tennessee do enough to cover on the road against an elite defense? That’s the question bettors must answer when handicapping Monday Night Football this week.