Current form and recent history clash in a Monday Night Football matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans.
Most mobile sportsbooks were influenced enough by the Bills’ season-opening 31-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams — and by the Titans losing a home game to the underdog New York Giants — to post Buffalo as a 10-point favorite (though DraftKings is offering them at -9.5 with -115 vig) for the 7:15 p.m. MNF game at Highmark Stadium.
That’s a lot of points to lay in a series that has tended to produce very close games and has seen Tennessee win the past two meetings. Last season, Tennessee held on to win a 34-31 thriller when Josh Allen slipped on fourth down with 21 seconds left.
Week 1 results can be misleading
The Bills have the shortest odds of any team to win the Super Bowl, so it’s logical to expect them to win their home opener. But here’s a trend to consider: NFL teams that lose straight up in Week 1 as the favorite are 32-20-2 against the spread in the last 17 seasons, according to The Action Network. If you’re a Titans backer in this one, you can point to the latest example of that bounce-back trend: the Green Bay Packers, who responded to a 23-7 season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings to cover the spread against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
The biggest question in this one is whether the Titans can regain a running game that has shown signs of erosion. That will be a tough task against Buffalo’s front seven, especially considering last week’s second-half showing in Tennessee, when the Titans managed just seven points and 155 total yards after halftime.
With a healthy Derrick Henry, the Titans had the best rushing game in the NFL in 2020, leading in rushing success rate and second to the Baltimore Ravens in expected points added per play. Last season, they fell to 21st in the first category and 13th in the latter. Even when Henry was healthy in 2021, the Titans weren’t as good as in previous seasons. In games with Henry, they were eighth in EPA/play.
Henry’s tough running and the Titans’ offensive line are primary reasons Tennessee has done well in this series of late, but can they continue to rely on that advantage? The Bills improved against the run throughout last season and they held the Rams to an anemic 29.4% rushing success rate in Week 1.
How successful Tennessee is running the ball could decide this one. The Titans are 4-9 in their last 13 games in which Henry was active but rushed for 83 yards or fewer. Their only prayer to keep Allen and Buffalo’s electric passing game contained is to grind with Henry and keep it away from them.
Total points, player props
Tennessee’s defense is about to find out the difference between trying to contain Daniel Jones and his weapons and trying to contain Allen and his group of receivers. That could be a tall task with such a young secondary. The Titans’ top three cornerbacks all were drafted in 2020 or later.
The total is set relatively low — at 47.5 at most books — because both teams have strong overall defenses, but the more explosive Bills unit could easily blow this one up if it gets in sync.
Looking for a fun player prop (albeit one that Bills fans would prefer to see not cash)? DraftKings is offering Titans wide receiver Kyle Philips at +425 to be an anytime touchdown scorer.
That might seem like a stretch considering he’s an undrafted rookie who missed most of the week of practice with a shoulder injury and hasn’t yet caught a touchdown in the NFL. But he was targeted a team-high nine times last week, as Ryan Tannehill doesn’t seem to have much rapport going with Robert Woods or Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. If they continue trying to ride the hot hand, Philips could reach paydirt against the Bills at a healthy price.
Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY