2017 Tennessee Titans Home Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
The NFL is a copy-cat league, but sometimes if you go against the grain that can be successful because few teams do it. For example, the 2016 Tennessee Titans. I absolutely thought they made a mistake after a 3-13 season in 2015 by not hiring some offensive guru like a Chip Kelly to work with Marcus Mariota. Instead, the Titans gave the full-time job to Mike Mularkey, who took over midway through the '15 campaign for the fired Ken Whisenhunt.
How Mularkey was going to be different was to pound the ball behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry - both acquired last offseason, Murray via trade and Henry in the draft -- and leave third-and-short situations for Mariota in 2016. It largely worked as the Titans finished 9-7, their best mark since 2011, and might have won the AFC South if not for Mariota breaking his leg in the second-to-last game. He's fully healthy now.
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So I guess Mularkey is on safe ground now, although expectations are as high in Nashville as they've been since the team's last playoff appearance in 2008. The Titans went into the offseason needing two clear upgrades: receiver and in the secondary. On paper, mission accomplished.
The Titans had the NFL's third-worst passing defense last season, giving up an average of 269.2 yards per game. They also were in the bottom seven in 20-plus-yard (56) and 40-plus-yard (12) passing plays allowed. In free agency, the team signed former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan and ex-Jaguars safety Jonathan Cyprien, who has had at least 104 tackles in each of his four pro seasons.
At wideout, Rishard Matthews led the Titans with 945 yards last season, but he's probably a No. 3 at best. Tight end Delanie Walker (65 catches, 800 yards) is one of the better players at the position in the NFL. Other than that, the pass-catching cupboard was bare. At No. 5 overall in this year's draft, the Titans made Western Michigan's Corey Davis the first receiver off the board; he basically treated Mid-American Conference competition like Randy Moss did. Davis has been dealing with a hamstring injury but expects to be ready for Week 1. The Titans also added Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor in the third round and beat out a few other teams for free agent Eric Decker after the Jets waived him.
All in all, a very solid offseason. This is my AFC South champion. Tennessee was 5-3 at home last season, 4-4 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." The Titans host three playoff teams in 2017: Oakland, Seattle and Houston. They get to play their final two at home against two terrible teams from 2016, but the home schedule is still a bit tougher than the road. Overall, Tennessee has the second-easiest schedule in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2016 winning percentage of .439. BetOnline listed the Titans' win total at 9, with the under a slight favorite. I projected a 4-4 road mark and will go 6-2 at home so am leaning over that total. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 10 vs. Raiders (+1, 53): This sets the tone for the season. Win here, and I'm loving my division title and 10-win pick. It's the Broken Leg Bowl as Derek Carr returns from the same injury suffered in his team's second-to-last game in 2016. This series is tied 6-6 with Oakland winning in Nashville 17-10 last season. Mariota had one of his worst games, going 17-for-33 for 214 yards and two picks. Murray rushed for 114 yards and a score. Key NFL betting trend: Titans 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
Sept. 24 vs. Seahawks (+2): Tennessee off a trip to Jacksonville in Week 2. Bad break for Titans in a way as this is a 4:05 p.m. ET start time. Still, if they can split with the Seahawks and Raiders, that's a good thing - the Titans should/could be favored in every other home game. Only fourth meeting between the teams. Seattle won the most recent 20-13 in 2013. Key betting trend: Titans 1-8-1 ATS in past 10 as home dog of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 16 vs. Colts (-3): Monday night, with the Titans off a trip to Miami. If, and I repeat if, Indy QB Andrew Luck starts the season on the PUP list, this would be his final game missed. Obviously that would be huge for Tennessee, which simply can't beat Luck. The Titans lost 34-26 to visiting Indy in Week 7 last year. Mariota threw for 232 and two scores but was strip-sacked late, which led to the clinching Colts TD. Murray rushed for 107 yards and a score. Key betting trend: Titans 4-4 ATS in series as a home favorite.
Nov. 5 vs. Ravens (-2.5): Tennessee off its bye week. Baltimore leads the series 9-6 and won the most recent matchup 21-7 in 2014. But these franchises are headed in different directions currently. Key betting trend: Titans 5-5 ATS at home in series.
Nov. 12 vs. Bengals (-3): The Titans drafted Davis hoping he can become their version of Bengals star A.J. Green. They are similar players in many ways. Tennessee is 8-5 in this series but lost the last one, 33-7 in 2014. Key betting trend: Titans 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC North.
Dec. 3 vs. Texans (-2.5): The Titans are in Indianapolis the previous Sunday. Tennessee leads this series 16-14 and beat visiting Houston 24-17 in Week 17 last year in a game that meant nothing for either side other than the Titans finishing with a winning record. With their six-win improvement from going 3-13 in 2015, the Titans matched the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history, previously set in 1967 and 1974. Key betting trend: Titans 5-5 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 24 vs. Rams (-7): Tough 1 p.m. ET start for the visitors, who should be well below .500 by this point. L.A. quarterback Jared Goff (presumably) against the team that originally held the No. 1 pick in 2016 that was used on him. Thanks to that trade, the Titans had the No. 5 pick this year to get Davis. Key betting trend: Titans 1-5 ATS in past six as a home favorite or at least 7.
Dec. 31 vs. Jaguars (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 early lines. The Titans lead this series 22-15, although it seems like they split every year, each winning at home. That was the case again in 2016 as Tennessee won 36-22 on a Thursday in Week 8 against the visiting Jags. Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans also rushed for 214 yards and two scores. Key betting trend: Titans 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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