One week after seeing their winning streak come to an end, the Tennessee Titans will try to get back on track as they play host to the New Orleans Saints. The Week 16 game gets underway at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 22 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Fans in select markets can watch the game on Fox.
According to the Week 16 NFL odds, the Saints are favored by 2.5 points on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 50.5 points.
After starting the year 2-4, the Titans have done an outstanding job of turning things around behind Ryan Tannehill. However, Tennessee floundered in the most important game of the season, losing at home to the Texans in a game that could end up deciding the AFC South title. On the heels of four straight wins, the loss was equal parts surprising and disappointing for the Titans.
As it stands, the Titans need to win this week and hope the Texans lose to the Buccaneers, which would set up a winner-take-all game between Tennessee and Houston in Week 17 with the division crown on the line. Fortunately for the Titans, they have a chance to earn the second Wild Card spot, even if Houston wins the division. Tennessee is currently tied with the Steelers at 8-6, although Pittsburgh currently owns the tie-breaker between the two teams. The bottom line is that the Titans need to win while hoping the Steelers lose.
Meanwhile, the Saints are fresh off a 34-7 thrashing of the Colts on Monday night. One week after a heartbreaking loss to the 49ers, New Orleans was able to get back on track. The Saints have now won four of their last five games and sit at 11-3.
With the NFC South crown long since wrapped up, the Saints are making a push for the top seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Of course, there are four teams in the NFC that are 11-3 with two weeks left in the season. New Orleans owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Seahawks. However, the Saints need to win their two remaining games and hope both the Packers and 49ers lose at least one more game in order to claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Is it wise to bet against a team that’s a home underdog in a must-win game? Not necessarily, but the Saints are good enough to throw that logic out the window. New Orleans was at their best last week, and that was after dropping 46 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL the previous week. The Saints are also 5-1 on the road this year, so I feel safe eating the points and taking New Orleans to cover a field goal on the road.
Based on the last few weeks, Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense are in playoff mode. The focus and execution have been sharp, especially from Brees, who completed 29 of his 30 passes against the Colts on Monday. Of course, part of the credit belongs to Michael Thomas, who is starting to garner MVP consideration. Thomas looks unstoppable at times, especially with a quarterback who has pinpoint accuracy. Over their last five games, the Saints are averaging close to 35 points per game.
In fairness, the Tennessee defense has put together a solid season. They are giving up just a hair under 20 points per game through 14 games. At home, the Titans are likely to put up a little more resistance than the Saints got from the Colts on Monday night. However, it’s the Tennessee offense that’s been the catalyst for the team’s turnaround. The defense, meanwhile, is merely along for the ride. In fact, the Titans have held just one of their last eight opponents under 20 points in their last eight games, which makes me skeptical about their ability to slow down Brees and the Saints.
If the Titans are going to stay within striking distance of New Orleans, they’ll need Tannehill and Derrick Henry to be at their best. While the change to Tannehill has been the spark, Henry remains the biggest key to the Tennessee offense. He was held under 100 yards and kept of the end zone last week after for the first time in five games. It’s not a coincidence that the team’s four-game winning streak came to an end when that happened despite over 250 passing yards from Tannehill. Outside the loss to San Francisco, the New Orleans defense has been solid against the run this year. If they can keep Henry somewhat contained, they should be in good shape against the Tennessee offense.
On the season, the Titans are yet to win a game when scoring 21 points or less. Against Brees and the Saints, it might take even more than that. I have doubts about the Tennessee defense stopping Brees and about Tannehill and the Titans matching him in a shootout. In the end, I feel safe taking the Saints to win by at least a field goal and cover.