We’re getting to a point where Derrick Henry might have more claim to the month of December than Santa Claus. And while Sunday’s resounding victory over the Colts technically happened in November, it was a classic late-season Henry performance. Let’s call it an appetizer for the December main course.
Really: Henry looked every bit the big, bad barreling monster he is, steamrolling the Colts for 185 total yards (including two receptions) and three touchdowns. With the 45-26 win, the Titans took over first place in the AFC South with a one-game lead over the Colts. Tennessee oddsmakers liked what they saw Sunday, as the Titans are now -450 to win the AFC South and -2500 to make the playoffs. In short: It may very well be a December to remember in Nashville.
Of course, a cardinal sin in the NFL is getting too far ahead of one’s self, and with that in mind, the Titans have to take care of business at home this week against the Cleveland Browns.
Right off the bat, the most shocking number is the over/under, which is set at 54 on FanDuel and DraftKings and 54.5 at BetMGM. This is the highest over/under of the week in the NFL (by two points) and features a pair of teams that are happy to run the ball, run the ball some more, and run the ball a bit more after that. That’s not usually the recipe for a high-scoring affair.
Same same, not so different
But much like the Spiderman-pointing-at-the-other-Spiderman meme, these two teams — specifically their two feature backs, Henry and Nick Chubb — are close to mirror images of one another. Instead of plodding down the field, both backs — as well as Kareem Hunt — are more than capable of breaking long runs, sometimes numerous times a game. This game could easily break through the 54 number; conversely, if the defenses tighten up, it could fall way short.
Cleveland is No. 1 in rushing yards per game at 161.4, Tennessee is No. 3 at 158.2. Passing yards? Tennessee is 22nd, Cleveland is 30th, and it’s worth remembering the Browns played two games in near-hurricane conditions. Again: These teams have similar ideas with what they want to do on offense.
On the defensive side of the field, more Spiderman meme stuff: The Browns are giving up 108.2 yards on the ground per game, good for eighth in the league, the Titans 115.5, putting them at 15th. On the passing side, again, plenty of similarities. But instead of being in the top half of the league, both passing defenses are closer to the bottom, with the Browns giving up 246.7 yards a game (20th) and the Titans 268.5 (28th).
So really, in a game that both teams are going to want to dominate with their ground game, the key to victory may lie in which team decides to attack more with the pass.
And by that metric, the Titans line up well. In short: Ryan Tannehill + A.J. Brown > Baker Mayfield + Jarvis Landry. Simplistic, sure, but no less true.
Sportsbooks like the Titans
And the sportsbooks agree, with the Titans being installed as -5.5 favorites at both DraftKings and BetMGM, and -6 favorites at FanDuel. On the moneyline, the best Titans value is at BetMGM at -239.
The player prop menu is going to be very interesting when it comes out, specifically Chubb and Henry rushing props. If this game goes as planned, they should both shatter the number put on them. And at FanDuel, which offers single-game parlays, a four-leg bet of Chubb over, Henry over, and both of them to score touchdowns looks like a way to roll the expected outcomes into one easy wager. It should come in around 10/1; anything higher than that seems like a fun bet.
Another interesting wager is the first quarter over/under. If you think both teams are going to come out and try to establish the run, the under at 10.5 being offered on FanDuel should be very attractive.
The Titans have the Jaguars and Lions on deck after this game, and those should be lay-ups for this team. Cleveland — with -410 odds to make the playoffs — is certainly no pushover. But a win here can really get the Titans — and their fearsome halfback — rolling with an eye to the Super Bowl.
And in case you’re wondering … the Titans are +2200 on DraftKings to raise the Lombardi Trophy.
Image credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports