When the NFL decided to schedule the Titans and Texans to meet twice in the last three weeks of the season, the league probably didn’t envision the two teams being deadlocked at 8-5, tied atop the AFC South. But that’s where they are. So the playoffs basically begin this week in the division.
The Jaguars are already eliminated at 4-9, and the Colts are hanging by a thread at 6-7, so the final two meetings between Tennessee and Houston will go a long way in deciding who wears the crown when the regular season comes to a close.
Titans piling up points
The casual fan might be surprised to find out that, despite struggling at times offensively in the first half of the season, the Titans have a +63 point differential this season, compared to +8 for Houston. Outside of the Chiefs, Ravens, and Patriots, the Titans have the best point differential in the AFC.
With legal sports betting coming to Tennessee in 2020, we note that the home team opened as 1.5-point favorites for Sunday’s game, but they jumped up to -3 on FanDuel Sportsbook — before falling back to -2.5 as of this writing.
The total in this one opened at 47.5 but has already been bet up a whopping three points to push it to 50.5. If you were able to get on the over and the Titans early, kudos to you, but we’ll analyze this one at the current odds to see if there is still any value left here.
While Ryan Tannehill has reinvigorated the Titans’ aerial attack, Derrick Henry is still the preferred method of travel for Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Henry is a load the Texans defense may struggle to handle — Houston has allowed 4.5 yards per carry (11th worst) and is slightly below league average in total rushing yards allowed.
At the same time, Broncos rookie Drew Lock showed last week that this Houston defense is very penetrable via the air, especially when they make a concerted effort to contain the run.
On the other side, the Titans’ pass defense is average at best and the team’s lack of depth at cornerback has proved to be an issue as the season has progressed. Especially if Will Fuller is able to return without limitations, stopping the Deshaun Watson-DeAndre Hopkins-Fuller combination is going to be a nightmare. Both teams have advantages on the offensive side of the ball, which helps to explain why this total has moved upward at a rapid pace since opening.
As good as the Titans have looked lately, it’s still fair to question if the offense can continue to click in all facets.
There is no doubt Tannehill is in a superior situation now compared to earlier years in Miami, but it also seems likely that his play will begin to regress some in the near future. If you are of that opinion, a look at the under and the Texans as moneyline underdogs — they are priced at +128 to win outright — could be for you.
If you’re hopping aboard the Tannehill bandwagon, getting the Titans under a field goal is sensible given that we’ve already seen this line jump to -3.
Regardless of which side you’re on, this will be about as close to playoff football as we’ll get during the regular season.
Photo by Stan Szeto / USA Today Sports