We’re going to tell you something very strange here – the Tennessee Titans are, at the moment, a half-game away from tying for the best record in the AFC. Yet they are getting two touchdowns as an underdog against the Kansas City Chiefs.
How is this possible?
Well, part of it involves the fact that they’ll be playing with their second-string quarterback, who happens to be a rookie.
But even if starter Ryan Tannehill were to be in the game, they would be considerable underdogs in this NBC televised contest that begins at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time at Arrowhead Stadium.
Tannehill has had a pretty good record of durability since he assumed the starting quarterback role a few seasons ago in place of Marcus Mariota. But his string of 49 consecutive starts was broken when he injured his ankle and had to be replaced by rookie Malik Willis, who is considered someone loaded with potential, but at the same time, very raw.
They went in and played the Houston Texans last week and dominated the game, as it was not as close as the 17-10 final indicated. Tennessee’s defense held Houston to 161 yards, and the Titans rambled for 314 yards on the ground, including 219 from Derrick Henry. That kind of masked the fact that Willis, who had no NFL experience, got the start at quarterback.
Needless to say, the parameters are a bit different on Sunday night.
Here are the Sunday night football odds as they are posted at BetOnline. The number has gone up a couple of points as Tannehill has been ruled out of this game, and the rookie will make his second start:
Kansas City Chiefs -14 (-112)
Tennessee Titans +14 (-108)
Over 45 Points -108
Under 45 Points -112
The Titans currently sit at 5-2, and they or two and a half games ahead of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. Every other team in the AFC has at least two losses, including the Chiefs, who will fall into a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Chargers if they lose here.
Willis originally attended Auburn before transferring to Liberty University, where he got the opportunity to be the full-time starter and led the Flames to a national ranking. He has a strong arm and a lot of ability to run with the ball. Tannehill was mobile, having been a wide receiver in college, but Willis presents more of a threat because he can do designed runs better.
But you don’t really need a lot of design when you have a guy like Henry in the backfield. You may recall a few years ago in Nashville when the Titans beat the Chiefs behind 188 yards from a former Heisman Trophy winner. This team was one-dimensional, to say the least, last week, as they ran the ball 45 times and passed it only ten times.
Willis has not indicated that he is an asset in the aerial game. He had only six completions for 55 yards and suffered one interception with three sacks. So it might be somewhat dangerous for him to drop back. Hence, the punters need to be careful while betting on football.
Tennessee is not going to hold Kansas City to 161 yards either, but they do have some hope of shortening this game and, as they say, keeping the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands.
Henry is priced at -126 to exceed 92.5 yards, and we think that even if Tennessee doesn’t make it that close, he will be their main priority by a mile or two. So we’re going over on that one, but we are going UNDER on the total. At the same time, the Titans are not nearly as efficient inside the red zone without Tannehill (they were #1 in the NFL until last week).
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