All the offseason change and turnover in the NFL makes Week 1 particularly fascinating from a betting perspective every year, and there’s one specific side for this Sunday jumping out as a value play: the Tennessee Titans (+3.5) visiting the New Orleans Saints.
This isn’t a case where there’s one singular factor pointing toward the Titans with the points. There are numerous factors pointing in their direction.
For starters, the Saints lost stud offensive lineman Trai Turner for the season a few weeks ago and will be without suspended tailback Alvin Kamara for Week 1. This creates a serious matchup problem for New Orleans, as the Titans’ front seven is one of the most underrated units in the league when healthy.
And healthy they are.
An IR-rational explanation for 2022
Health wasn’t on the Titans’ side in 2022. They were in the driver’s seat to win the AFC South at 7-3, before remarkably losing seven straight games, including a Week 18 win-or-go-home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which came down to the final moments.
So, what happened to Tennessee last season? Well, journeyman quarterback Josh Dobbs signed with the team in December and played in that massive Week 17 contest against Jacksonville. Nothing like throwing a QB fresh off the street into a season-defining game, right?
If that doesn’t speak volumes about the injury-ridden state of the 2022 Titans, check out this quote from TitansWire:
“One year after fielding an NFL record 91 players because of injury, the Titans fell short of that mark in 2022 with 86, but that total still led the NFL and would’ve broken the previous record of 84.
“The Titans finished first in ‘man games lost’ with 339, 36 more than any other team. This stat measures how many games players missed due to injuries during the 2022 campaign.”
Everyone was hurt at one point or another for the Titans last season. Star players (some who are no longer with the team) such as Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, Treylon Burks, Taylor Lewan, Harold Landry, and Denico Autry missed time for Tennessee. Landry didn’t even make it out of training camp.
A field goal, plus the hook?
The Saints have gone through plenty of changes with head coach Dennis Allen entering his second season with the team, adjusting to new faces at quarterback (Derek Carr) and running back (Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller). They’re dealing with a lot of moving parts to open a season in a game where there may not be much margin for error.
The Titans also made changes by ditching offensive coordinator Todd Downing, bringing in star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and overhauling the offensive line. Those should add up to huge net positives for Tennessee.
I expect this game to be close and ugly, but I like Tennessee catching at least three points on the road. At last look, they were +3.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, and bet365, with an alternative betting option of +3 (+100) at FanDuel and PointsBet.
This number bounced between 3 and 4.5 during the summer months. Coach Mike Vrabel and the Titans have fared well under such circumstances. Vrabel’s Titans are 13-6-1 ATS as a road underdog of 3-plus points and 16-6 ATS as an underdog (home or road) of at least 4 points during his tenure.
Futures, moneyline, and more
The market always sleeps on Tennessee and Vrabel until roughly December, when they’re “surprisingly” in the hunt almost every year. This is a gritty bunch cemented in Vrabel’s culture, and when they aren’t dealing with a historic number of injuries, they’re consistently competitive.
It’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world, and the public is down on Tennessee after the team missed the postseason last year.
However, the Titans have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and four of the last six.
Looking at their chances to deliver on a futures bet in the AFC South, it figures to be a two-team race. The Texans aren’t ready yet, and the Colts are a disaster heading into the season.
The Jaguars are the favorite (-155 at FanDuel), but remember that they needed a complete collapse by an injury-ridden Titans team, along with a tuck-rule-type fumble, to earn a playoff spot last year.
Bottom line: I’m not buying into the notion that Tennessee is a playoff longshot.
As for Week 1 against New Orleans, the Titans are live for a straight-up win, and there’s value at +160 (Betfred) on the moneyline. Tennessee owns a 20-18 record as an outright dog under Vrabel. This is about the healthiest Tennessee has been in two years, and I’m prepared for an ugly-good game from the Titans on Sunday.