The Titans’ 2020 campaign ended a little earlier than in 2019 when they made it to the AFC Championship game, but the franchise still won the AFC South (+180) and they reached double-digit victories for the first time since 2008. Tennessee finished with an 11-5 record (7-9 ATS) and it reached the playoffs (-150) for the second straight season thanks in large part to Derrick Henry’s historic season. He led the NFL with 2027 rushing yards (+700) and he won the Offensive Player of the Year (+1000). The Titans had the Ravens on the ropes in the Wild Card Round with a 10-point lead in the second quarter, but their offense sputtered to season-lows in points (13) and total yards (209) in the elimination game.
The Titans averaged the fifth-most points per game (30.7) while their defense allowed the ninth-most points per game (27.4), so it’s no surprise they finished 12-3-1 toward overs. Tennessee concluded last season with a 7-2 mark in one-score games and a 4-2 record in contests decided by three scores or more, which helped it to the 12th-best point differential (+52).
Tennessee’s 2021 win total (9) climbed by half a victory after reaching the playoffs and with an additional game added to this year’s schedule. The Titans cruised past their 2020 win total by two and half victories and they passed their total with their ninth victory of the season over the Jaguars in Week 14. Entering this season, I have the Titans power rated as the 15th-best team in the NFL (+2800 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the eighth-best team in the AFC (+1300 to win the conference), and as the second-best team in the AFC South (-120).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|4||@New York Jets||-2.5||1|
|6||Buffalo Bills||+2.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|7||Kansas City Chiefs||+4.5||1|
|9||@Los Angeles Rams||+5.5||8:20|
|10||New Orleans Saints||-2.5||1|
|12||@New England Patriots||+1||1|
|16||San Francisco 49ers||+2||8:20 (Thurs)|
The Titans will face the 13th-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football) thanks to a pair of matchups with two of the league’s worst teams in the Texans and Jaguars, as well as a contest with the Jets. Tennessee has just one game against an opponent coming off of a bye week and it comes against the league’s worst team entering the season against the Texans in Week 11.
Tennessee’s AFC South and playoff hopes could be determined by a brutal stretch of games in Weeks 6-10. They’ll square off with five straight opponents lined at 9+ wins in the Bills, Chiefs, Colts, Rams, and Saints. The Titans also have an important three-game stretch in Weeks 15-17, which includes two games against AFC Wild Card contenders in the Steelers (Week 15) and Dolphins (Week 17) with a matchup with the 49ers sandwiched in the middle.
Key Off-season Moves
|Josh Reynolds (WR)||Caleb Farley (CB)||Corey Davis (WR, NYJ)|
|Kendall Lamm (OT)||Dillon Radunz (OT)||Adam Humphries (WR, Was)|
|Denico Autry (DE)||Monty Rice (LB)||Jonnu Smith (TE, NE)|
|Bud Dupree (OLB)||Elijah Molden (DB)||MyCole Pruitt (TE, SF)|
|Janoris Jenkins (CB)||Dez Fitzpatrick (WR)||Dennis Kelly (OT)|
|Kevin Johnson (CB)||Rashad Weaver (DE)||Isaiah Wilson (OT)|
|Julio Jones (WR)||DaQuan Jones (DT, Cle)|
|Jadeveon Clowney (OLB, Cle)|
|Malcolm Butler (CB, Ari)|
|Adoree Jackson (CB, NYG)|
|Desmond King (CB, Hou)|
|Kenny Vaccaro (S)|
|Kevin Johnson (CB, Cle)|
|Kalif Raymond (WR, Det)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9 (-150/+125)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 9.5 (+123) in late March to 9 (-150)
Super Bowl: +2800 in early February to +2800
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Titans have been undervalued the last few years and they were being undersold once again this off-season until they traded for Julio Jones in early June. They’re a perfect 3-0 to the over on their win total under HC Mike Vrabel, and they’re 4-0-1 to the over in the last five seasons with nine or more wins in each of those campaigns. The Titans quietly have the third-longest streak of winning seasons at five, behind only the Seahawks (9) and Chiefs (8). It doesn’t hurt that they have the Texans and Jaguars on the schedule for two games each this season.
Tennessee certainly has the star power on offense to extend that streak to a sixth season. The Titans have the most dynamic 1-2 combo at wide receiver between Julio and young Julio, A.J. Brown. Julio still averaged 15.1 YPR and a career-high 11.3 YPT at 31 years old while Brown is averaging 17.4 YPR in his first two seasons with 19 career TD receptions on just 190 targets. Ryan Tannehill has been incredibly efficient since coming to Tennessee too, averaging 8.6 YPA with a healthy 7.2% TD rate.
The Titans’ passing attack will once be helped by the attention defenses have to pay to Derrick Henry and vice versa. Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to run for 2000 yards in a season, and he became the first player to reach 2K rushing yards since Adrian Peterson did it in 2012. The Titans will also get LT Taylor Lewan back this season after he missed the final 11 games of last season with a torn ACL. Lewan has been a stalwart at tackle since he broke into the league in 2014, and the Titans struggled to fill his left tackle spot last season and it hurt a player like TE Jonnu Smith, who was asked to pass protect more after Lewan’s injury.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Titans have a dominant rushing attack with Henry, which helps them in tighter games, but they could see some regression after going 7-2 in one-score games in 2020. Despite losing Lewan, they still had some of the better injury luck in the league as they had the sixth-fewest adjusted games lost last season (per Football Outsiders). Tennessee also lost key cogs to its offensive success the last two seasons in OC Arthur Smith, Smith, and WR Corey Davis. Smith could end up being the biggest loss from the group if Todd Downing struggles in his second opportunity as an offensive coordinator — he previously served as an OC for the Raiders in 2017.
The Titans must improve on defense this season after they allowed the fifth-most yards per game (398.3) and the ninth-most points per game (27.4). There’s lots of pressure on free agent signee Bud Dupree to improve the Titans’ pass rush after they finished with just 19 sacks last season. He comes to Tennessee with plenty of question marks coming off a December ACL tear, and he benefited from playing across from one of the league’s best pass rushers in T.J. Watt, who opened up more one-on-one opportunities for Dupree. The Titans also elected to take another big swing in the first round for the second straight year by drafting a plummeting Caleb Farley at No. 22 to help their weak secondary. The Virginia Tech CB was once considered a top-10 pick before he needed a second back surgery so he comes to Tennessee with some risk. The Titans whiffed on Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson in the first round last season, who is already out of the league for his off-the-field behavior.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Ryan Tannehill: passing yards (4200.5), passing TDs (28.5), MVP (+2500), most passing TDs (+2000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4325), passing TDs (29)
Best-Case Scenario: Tannehill sees more passing volume after averaging just 28.9 attempts per game in his first 26 starts with the Titans, and A.J. Brown and Julio Jones do plenty of damage with extra work.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Tannehill can’t come close to maintaining his 7.2% TD rate and his 8.6 YPA average from his first two seasons with Todd Downing taking over the offense from Arthur Smith.
Derrick Henry: rushing yards (1555.5), rushing TDs (13.5), OPOY (+700), MVP (+5000), most rushing yards (+350), most rushing TDs (+450)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1580), rushing TDs (16)
Best-Case Scenario: Henry becomes the first back since Emmitt Smith (1991-93) to win three straight rushing titles as the addition of Julio Jones makes him even more dangerous facing lighter boxes.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Henry hits a few speed bumps in Todd Downing’s new offense and his 782 carries from the last two seasons combined (playoffs included) start to catch up to him
A.J. Brown: receiving yards (1175.5), receiving TDs (8.5), receptions (81.5), most receiving yards (+1500), most receiving TDs (+2000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1145), receiving TDs (9), receptions (79)
Best-Case Scenario: Brown keeps ascending in his third season and he firmly establishes himself among the league’s elite at the position with the offense trending a little more pass-heavy.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Brown falls behind his child idol, Julio Jones, in the passing-game pecking order, and the offense takes a step back with Arthur Smith out of town.
Julio Jones: receiving yards (995.5), receiving TDs (6.5), receptions (77.5), most receiving yards (+2800)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1095), receiving TDs (6), receptions (75)
Best-Case Scenario: Jones has a little extra pep in his step in his first season away from Atlanta and he stays relatively healthy and hits it off immediately with Ryan Tannehill.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Jones is in and out of the lineup as he struggles to shake his lingering hamstring issues at 32 years old, and he settles into a secondary role behind A.J. Brown in his new offense.
Tennessee Titans over nine wins (-140, DraftKings) — The Titans have vaulted into favorite status in the AFC South after the Colts lost Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson for potentially the first couple of weeks this season. If you read my Colts preview from a few weeks back, you’ll know I already viewed the Titans as the favorites in the AFC South despite what the odds said. I felt the same way last season and I was able to cash tickets on Tennessee’s win total and on their plus-price odds to win the division. I’m heavily leaning toward another successful season in Nashville and for HC Mike Vrabel to open his coaching career with a 4-0 mark toward overs on his win total. I couldn’t quite get to the window because of my questions about what this offense will look like going from one of the most innovative play-callers in Arthur Smith to Todd Downing. He previously called plays for just one year with the Raiders in 2017 before the entire coaching staff got fired, and I’m concerned there could be a drop in efficiency even with Julio Jones added to the mix. The Titans could still have one of the league’s worst defenses too after they allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game (277.4) and they had the third-fewest sacks (39). Tennessee signed OLB Bud Dupree (ACL and drafted CB Caleb Farley (back surgery) in the first round to improve their pass defense, but both players are coming back from major injuries this season. The Titans are still the class of potentially the NFL’s weakest division, but the AFC South could be this year’s NFC East with a division winner with a losing record.