Even after suffering their first loss of the season last week to Pittsburgh, the Titans look like one of the AFC's top teams at 5-1.
But keep this in mind about the Titans: Win or lose, almost every one of their games has been close so far this season. In fact, five of the Titans' six contests have been decided by six points or less – including games against not-so-powerful clubs like Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Houston. The Titans needed a 49-yard field goal with less than two minutes left to edge the Jaguars, a 55-yard field goal with under two minutes left to down the Vikings and a touchdown with four seconds left against the Texans just to reach overtime.
So while a five-point spread for a 5-1 Titans team against a 1-5-1 Cincinnati squad may look tempting, I'd be cautious. The Bengals have held a fourth-quarter lead in five of their seven games this season, and four of the team's five losses have come by five points or less. In other words, Cincinnati is more similar to Tennessee than one might think. It's just that the Bengals have managed to find ways to lose close games, while the Titans have succeeded in clutch time – aside from Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal last Sunday in the closing seconds. The difference in perception regarding the two teams is likely why the Titans are just 2-4 against the spread, while the Bengals are 5-2.
Another reason to think this game might be tight? Cincinnati rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, fresh off throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns last week, is facing a Titans pass defense that is one of the worst in the league. The Titans are having trouble getting off the field at all defensively, as they rank last in the NFL third-down percentage and second-to-last in red-zone percentage.
As for the over/under of 53.5, I'd lean toward over, since both of these teams have been ringing up points pretty regularly. The Titans have topped the 30-point mark in four of their past five games, a stretch that included back-to-back totals of 42 points against Buffalo and Houston. Even without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan (ACL) in the lineup, Derrick Henry should be able to put up good numbers against a soft Bengals run defense. That should open throwing lanes for Ryan Tannehill, who's tossed multiple touchdowns in five of six games this year.
The Bengals should be able to keep pace to a certain extent, though it's worth keeping an eye on the injury report, as three of Cincinnati's offensive linemen – and running back Joe Mixon – missed practice on Wednesday. If the Bengals can get at least a couple of those players back, we'll see the kind of offense that's produced more than 30 points in three of the past four weeks.
NFL Expert Picks
Over 53.5 @ -110
NFL Free Picks
Week 8 is here and we've got some great games in store. The Cowboys visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Sunday Night Football and the Bucs end the week by facing the Giants in New York on Monday Night Football. Elsewhere we'll see Tua Tagovailoa's first game as Miami Dolphin's starter, and the Steelers facing the Ravens in a huge test of both team's Super Bowl credentials. The Cardinals, Texans, Jaguars and the Football Team are all on a bye this week.
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