The National Football League will complete their longest week ever tonight when the Tennessee Titans host the Buffalo Bills in a battle of unbeatens. Week Five for the NFL began last Thursday night when the Bears beat the Buccaneers, and will finally conclude action for the week tonight in a contest from Nashville set to begin at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
These two undefeated teams set to play tonight were projected quite differently in our preseason look at the league. The Buffalo Bills are our Super Bowl pick, a selection that opened the campaign at 25 to 1 odds. Those odds have dropped to 13 to 1 after the Bills four game winning streak to open the 2020 campaign.
Based on their fast finish last year, which saw the Titans emerge from the middle of the standings in the AFC South Division at mid-season to a trip to the AFC Championship Game, we had them posted as a team with expectations above their talent level. The surge last year corresponded to the shift at quarterback, as Mike Vrabel sat down incumbent starter Marcus Mariota for vetern Ryan Tannehill.
The longtime starter in Miami was acquired in the previous off-season to provide a solid backup, when in fact Tannehill proved to be extraordinary once handed the starting role. His play last season prompted the Titans to allow Mariota a new home address, he is now the backup to Derek Carr in Las Vegas.
My concern for the Titans entering this season is that a team that finishes fast often has expectations through the roof the following season and that leads to a horrible motivational dip. That was one of the primary reasons we had the Denver Broncos plus a field goal on the season’s opening Monday night to beat the Titans.
In fact, Tennessee outplayed the Broncos but their offseason acquisition for kicking duties, 15-year veteran Stephen Gostkowski, left ten points on the field with three missed field goals and a botched extra point. Gostkowski spent the first 14 years of his pro career with the New England Patriots and was a teammate of Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel.
The Titans new kicker did redeem himself on opening night at Mile High, kicking the game winner with seconds left on the clock. That lifted the Titans to a two-point win, 16-14, and their first of three straight point spread losses. They come into action tonight undefeated with three wins, but still winless in point spread results with narrow victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings following their victory over the Broncos.
Tonight, they kickoff for the first time as a point spread underdog.
The Bills deserve to be favored in this game. They have met every challenge this year while winning all four of their starts and covering the point spread in three of their games.
But, from a motivational perspective, the touted problems the Titans had instore for this season are waylaid tonight based on an underdog role and the need to overcome both Buffalo and the outbreak of Covid-19 in their organization.
They had hoped to get their facility opened last Wednesday after a forced pandemic closure, but a new positive result delayed them getting back to work. Is all this too much for the Titans to overcome tonight?
I think not.
In fact, I think the challenges they need to overcome in both meeting the tough Bills and fighting the virus puts on the backburner their overconfidence.
That’s a good thing for a talented Titans team.
Now, they are getting 3½ points on the spread tonight, and each time it dips to three points, there is a line of wise guys ready to pounce on the Bills giving the field goal.
While they pounce, I’m inclined to pick my spot for the generous 3½ point spread while expecting a straight up Titans victory.
Qoxhi Picks: Tennessee Titans (+3½) over Buffalo Bills