If you are old-school football fan, I believe the Tennessee Titans will be your cup of tea this year because they are going to try and ground-and-pound teams with their two-headed tailback situation of DeMarco Murray, acquired in trade this offseason from Philadelphia for basically nothing, and second-round pick Derrick Henry, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama.
While I totally disagreed with the Titans giving interim head coach Mike Mularkey the full-time job this offseason, and he might just be there for 2016, I do think Tennessee had a fine offseason to build around franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Titans earned the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, but there really was no franchise-type player available like a Mariota. And obviously the Titans didn't need to take a QB at the top of the draft, so the team smartly took a draft-pick haul from the Los Angeles Rams for the No. 1 pick so the Rams could take a decent-but-not-stellar QB prospect in Cal's Jared Goff.
Tennessee needed a major infusion of talent and took Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin at No. 8 overall (trading back up from the Rams' No. 15 spot to get him), Clemson pass-rushing linebacker Kevin Dodd at No. 33 overall, Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson at No. 43 and Henry at No. 45, the latter two picks part of the Rams package. The Titans weren't going to win much in 2016 regardless, so adding quantity was the smart move. Plus, the team could hit the jackpot in next year's draft. I'm assuming Tennessee will have a Top 5 pick, and it also holds the Rams' first- and third-rounders. This team could be good by 2018 if it drafts well.
I was surprised last week that the Titans already gave up on 2015 second-rounder Dorial Green-Beckham, sending the talented-but-enigmatic receiver to Philadelphia for reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly. DGB is a monster at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and appeared in all 16 games last year with five starts. He finished with 32 catches and led all Titans wide receivers with 549 yards and four touchdowns. But he's also a bit of a knucklehead. Maybe it's addition by subtraction, but the Titans aren't very good at that position and could end up regretting that if DGB ever lives up to his physical gifts.
The Titans were 1-7 at home last season, 2-5-1 against the spread and 4-3-1 "over/under." They host four 2015 playoff teams this year. I project a 2-6 home record. BetOnline lists the Titans' win total at 5.5, with the over a -160 favorite. That seems optimistic as I'm going with a 4-12 mark. Overall, Tennessee's schedule ranks as tied for the eighth-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .473. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 vs. Vikings (+3, 42): It's it possible for a team to be looking past a Week 1 game? I only ask because Minnesota might be glancing toward Week 2 and a showdown with rival Green Bay in the first game that counts in the Vikings' new stadium. It's the league's past two rushing champions here in Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Murray, who won it in 2014 with Dallas. Key trend: Titans 3-2-1 ATS at home vs. NFC North.
Sept. 25 vs. Raiders (+2.5): Tennessee is off a Week 2 trip to Detroit. Oakland is home to Atlanta the previous Sunday. The Titans lost to the visiting Raiders 24-21 in Week 12 last year on a late Derek Carr TD pass, coming after the Titans had appeared to stop the Raiders on downs -- but a defensive holding penalty was called. Mariota didn't have his best game, completing 17-for-37 for 218 yards and two picks, although he did have three TD passes. Key trend: Titans 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 at home as a dog of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 16 vs. Browns (-3.5): Titans are off a Week 5 trip to Miami. Cleveland is home to New England (Tom Brady's season debut) the previous Sunday. I suppose this game could help determine the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, but I don't think the Titans are that bad. They lost in Cleveland 28-14 in Week 2 last year. Mariota was 21-for-37 for 257 yards and two TDs. The Titans largely dominated statistically but had three lost fumbles, and the Browns had no turnovers. Key trend: Titans 2-6-2 ATS in past 10 as a home favorite (last cover in 2013).
Oct. 23 vs. Colts (+3.5): Indy is off a Week 6 trip to Houston. The Titans have dropped nine straight in this series. It was 35-33 at home in Week 3 last year, blowing a 27-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Mariota threw for 367 yards with two scores and two picks. Tennessee won the statistical battle, for what that's worth. Key trend: Titans 4-5 ATS as a home dog in series.
Oct. 27 vs. Jaguars (pick'em): Thursday night game, and the third year in a row these teams play a Thursday game. It's like the NFL is punishing us, but both franchises are on the rise. Jacksonville is a year or two ahead of the Titans. It's the only prime-time game of the year for Tennessee. Jacksonville is off a home game vs. Oakland the previous Sunday. The Titans beat the visiting Jaguars 42-39 in Week 13 last year for their final win of the season and to split the season series for the ninth straight time. Mariota made history by throwing for 268 yards and three scores and rushing for 112 and an 87-yard TD. He was the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 250 yards, run for more than 100 and throw three TD passes in a game. Key trend: Titans 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
Nov. 13 vs. Packers (+7.5): Tennessee is off a trip to San Diego in Week 9. Green Bay is home to Indianapolis the previous Sunday, and this starts three straight on the road for the Pack. Titans lost last meeting 55-7 in Green Bay late in the 2012 season. Key trend: Titans 5-5 ATS in past 10 as home dog of at least 7 points.
Dec. 11 vs. Broncos (+5.5): The Titans are off their late bye week. Denver could be caught napping here ahead of a home AFC Championship Game rematch vs. New England in Week 15. The Titans lost the last meeting 51-28 in Denver in 2013. Key trend: Titans 1-8-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
Jan. 1 vs. Texans (TBA): Again, no Week 17 lines posted early. Tennessee is off a trip to Jacksonville on Christmas Eve. Houston wraps up its home schedule in Week 16 vs. Cincinnati. The Titans were rolled by the visiting Texans 34-6 in Week 16 last year. Mariota was out injured. and Zach Mettenberger (now in San Diego) started and threw for 234 yards on 51 attempts, which is a terrible average yards per attempt. The Titans had 257 total yards. Key trend: Titans 0-5 ATS in past five at home in series.
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