When the trends drive the odds, it’s always a good idea to look at how the trend came to be in the first place. NFL franchises tend to maintain the same strengths and weakness over time, but as Bill Parcells has said, “every year is a new deal.”
As the Deshaun Watson-less Texans travel to face the 7-4 Tennessee Titans, Vegas odds-makers have predicted that only a single-TD point spread would create balanced betting action. They’re correct. In fact, the (-7) line for Tennessee has even dropped to (-6.5) on some boards, indicating that gamblers like the visiting Texans.
But why? Houston lost to Baltimore last week to put their season on life-support at 4-7. The team has lost 4 of its last 5 games, managing only to beat a floundering Arizona squad while giving up nearly 300 passing yards to the lowly Colts, 17 2nd-quarter points to the Ravens, and an eye-popping 17 yards per target – not reception – to WR Robert Woods of the L.A. Rams in a 33-7 loss.
It could be the trends, as Houston is 8-2 straight up and ATS in the last 10 of the series. Or maybe it’s Tennessee’s last 3 outings, in which the Titans have gone 2-1 but looked shakier than a lush in a dry county.
Who: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
When: Sunday, December 3rd, 1 PM EST
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Lines: Houston (+7) at Tennessee (-7) / O/U Total: (43)
The Titans have an average defensive backfield for a contender, giving up about 250 passing yards per contest. Tennessee allowed Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton to shake off the cobwebs with a 100+ rating performance 3 Sundays ago, but slipped by with a 24-20 win. The following week, the Nashville club was blown off the field in a trip to Pittsburgh. Finally, the Titans had to come back to beat Indianapolis 20-16.
There was one bright spot at Lucas Oil, however – the pass rush. Tennessee demolished the opposing OL, sacking Jacoby Brissett (not the worst scrambler of all time) an amazing 8 times in the win. LB Brian Orakbo lived in the Indy backfield, and Brissett actually deserves a lot of credit for playing a decent game despite the punishment.
Marcus Mariota is not always a pristine, perfect QB for 60 minutes. But he’s the type of electrifying player who can make a big play from anywhere on the field. With Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray to churn out 1st downs, Mariota can thrive if he can settle down – and he can settle down if the defense keeps winning the LOS.
Houston is unlikely to blow the Titans off the ball. Journeyman QB Tom Savage has played pretty well in relief of the injured Watson. But without J.J. Watt, the Texans have little hope of disrupting Mariota in the pocket or Henry on his way around end. Baltimore didn’t exactly fly down the field last week, but the Titans can.
We’re liking the Titans to cover the spread. The action is partially driven by Houston’s popularity as a team and high-rollers from the Lone Star State…otherwise, the line might be moving above 7 points.
Yes, Tennessee hasn’t look all that great lately. But the DL could be turning a corner, and the squad will be highly motivated to get its 8th win against a beatable guest.
Also, the over is a smart bet. If Tennessee’s front-7 gets rolling at home, Savage will be ravaged and either turn the ball over or give the ball back to Mariota in prime field position anyway. If not, the hosts don’t have the DBs to prevent the visitors from scoring 20+…even in defeat.