Arizona Cardinals (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (0-0, 0-0), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Cardinals 24.5, Titans 27.5
Spread/Total Movements: 51.5 to 52
Weather: 85 degrees, 5-10 mph, 5% chance of rain
Cardinals Injuries to Watch: CB Darqueze Dennard (IR), CB Malcolm Butler (retirement), DE Jordan Phillips (IR)
Titans Injuries to Watch: RB Darrynton Evans (hamstring, IR), WR Marcus Johnson (IR), WR AJ Brown (knee, probable)
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals were one of five teams to finish with 11+ under games last season.
Arizona finished 2-7 ATS in its last nine games last season.
Arizona played under the total in all eight of its road games last season.
The Cardinals went 5-2 toward the under in their final seven games last season.
Kliff Kingsbury is 6-3 ATS in early kick games.
Kyler Murray finished as the QB3 in FPG (25.5) thanks to eight top-five finishes at the position. The eight top-5 finishes tied him with Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers for the most at the position, while only Rodgers (13) had more top-12 finishes than Murray’s 11. He finished behind only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards per game with 51.7. The Titans allowed the fifth-most FPG (22.2) to QBs last season.
DeAndre Hopkins dominated in his first season with Kyler Murray, finishing as the WR5 with 18.1 FPG. Nuk has now finished as a top-6 WR in five of the last six seasons, having seen 150+ targets in each of those seasons — he had Brock Osweiler at quarterback in the only season he didn’t finish as a top-6 WR. The Titans allowed the second-most FPG (45.1) to WRs last season.
A.J. Green is looking to get his career back on track in the desert after he caught just 45.2% of his targets last season (45 of 104). He ranked 32nd WR targets and 67th in fantasy points after he missed the entire 2019 season with a preseason ankle injury. Tennessee gave up the third-most touchdowns per game (1.4) to WRs last season.
Rondale Moore doesn’t have the biggest frame (5’7”, 180 pounds), but he’ll bring some much-needed YAC ability, which has been absent in Arizona’s offense with Larry Fitzgerald manning the slot. Moore led the FBS with 114 catches as a true freshman in 2018, but his college career fizzled out because of injuries. Kingsbury got the ball in Moore’s hands on 23.4% of his preseason snaps (11 of 47) and his aDOT rested at just 1.3 yards. The Titans allowed the second-most receptions per game (16.8) to WRs.
Chase Edmonds is set to lead this Cardinals backfield with James Conner factoring in as a runner in some early-down and short-yardage situations. Edmonds finished seventh among RBs in receptions (52) and 25th in total fantasy points after sharing the backfield with Kenyan Drake. Edmonds has never had 100 carries in a season, nor has he ever played 50% of his team’s snaps in a season but fantasy drafters are expecting that to change this season. The Titans ranked in the middle of the pack in receptions per game (4.1) and receiving yards per game (37.8) allowed to RBs last season.
Brolley’s Titans Stats and Trends
The Titans and Raiders finished a league-high 12-3-1 toward overs last season.
The Titans are 1-4 ATS in their last five season openers.
Tennessee is 1-5 ATS in its last six September contests.
The Titans are 22-7-1 toward overs since Ryan Tannehill took over as the team’s starter in Week 7 of 2019.
Derrick Henry is coming off the NFL’s first 2000-yard rushing season since Adrian Peterson ran for 2097 yards for the Vikings back in 2012. It’s no surprise that King Henry is once again the big favorite to bring home his third straight rushing title. History is working against him, though, as no player has won three straight rushing titles since Emmitt Smith did it back 1991-93. Barry Sanders (1996-97), Edgerrin James (1999-2000), and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006-07) each fell short in their attempts to bring home three straight titles since Smith last did it nearly 30 years ago. The Cardinals allowed a generous 4.4 YPC to RBs last season and the 16th-most rushing yards (95.3) per game to the position.
Ryan Tannehill’s rise to the top of league efficiency metrics continued in 2020. He threw 33 TDs to 7 INTs, he averaged 7.9 YPA, and he completed 65.5% of his passes in a run-heavy offense. Tannehill finished as the overall QB7 in fantasy points last season and he finished as a top-12 weekly QB eight times in his 16 starts. The Cardinals allowed the 16th-most FPG (19.6) to QBs last season but their secondary will be without Darqueze Dennard (IR) and Malcolm Butler (retirement).
The Titans made a huge splash this off-season by trading for Julio Jones in early June to replace Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Julio played just nine games last year, but he was just as explosive and efficient as he’s always been. He finished six of those nine games as a top-24 fantasy WR, including three times as a top-12 WR. He gets a prime matchup this week against a decimated Cardinals’ cornerback corps, which gave up the 16th-fewest FPG to WRs (36.1) last season.
A.J. Brown continued his ascension last season with 70/1075/11 receiving on 106 targets (15.4 YPR, 66.0% catch rate). He ranked as a top-12 WR six times with two of those finishes coming inside the top-five at the position. Brown averaged 17.6 FPG in 15 games if you include his performance in the playoffs. The Cardinals gave up the seventh-most receptions (14.0) to WRs last season.
Anthony Firkser posted career-highs in targets (53), catches (39), and yards (387) last season, but he averaged an ugly 9.9 YPR. The Titans will use a rotation at the position but Firkser is the top receiving option as the team’s big slot receiver. The Cardinals tightened up against TEs last season, allowing the seventh-fewest FPG (10.9) to the position.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 24.5 (1st)
Plays per game: 68.3 (2nd)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 55.3% (22nd) | Run: 44.7% (11th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 49.9% (16th) | Run: 50.1% (17th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 61.1% (27th) | Run: 38.9% (6th)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.2 (4th)
Plays per game: 63.5 (17th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 50.7% (29th) | Run: 49.3% (4th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 40.6% (31st) | Run: 59.4% (2nd)
When the team is behind — Pass: 56.2% (30th) | Run: 43.8% (3rd)
This right here is the game of the week for fantasy. It will be the key game to get right on the DFS main slate and a big part of season-long decisions. Both the Cardinals and Titans were top-5 in pace last year, which right on the surface, makes for a high-volume affair between two offenses that play fast. Mix in the Molotov Cocktail that is the Cardinals secondary, and we are cooking with fire. Arizona could not possibly be in a worse spot at cornerback ahead of matchup with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones in Week 1. Their top two corners heading into this season — CB Darqueze Dennard (IR) and CB Malcolm Butler (retirement) — are both gone. So, the team will have to rely on Byron Murphy (who lost his starting job to Dennard and Butler) and Robert Alford (who has not played a snap since 2018). The Titans were a sneaky shootout team last year, too, and were 6-2-1 towards the over at home with 7-of-9 games combining for at least 51 points. Wheels up.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Simply said, the markets have this game figured out correctly if they’re lining it as one of the highest totals of the week. Given his strengths and the strengths of his receivers, this matchup sets up beautifully for Titan QB Ryan Tannehill given the coverages Arizona DC Vance Joseph typically deploys. And credit GM Jon Robinson for understanding where Tannehill’s strengths lie — they’re strengths that both WRs AJ Brown and Julio Jones share.
As for Brown, I love his matchup. Based on last season’s alignment metrics and how the Cardinals deployed their corners, Robert Alford will be assigned to cover Brown the most. The last time we saw Alford, he played 15 games for the Falcons while allowing a 138.9 passer rating. He missed the last two seasons with a broken leg and a torn pectoral muscle. I find it highly unlikely that he’ll return from a pair of serious injuries, six previous seasons of average play to reinvent himself as a lockdown corner.
I’m not as optimistic about Kyler Murray, however, because I actually saw an improved Titans defense during the preseason. Conventional wisdom suggests the defense is Tennessee’s weak point after last year’s pathetic showing, but the Titans showed flashes during the preseason — 2021 fourth-rounder Rashad Weaver invigorated the pass rush in August, and we’ve yet to even see the impact free-agent EDGE Bud Dupree will have. The Titans also retooled their secondary over the offseason with CB Janoris Jenkins through free agency and phenom Elijah Molden via the draft.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I f’ing love the Tennessee Titans. Only the Minnesota Vikings are as easy to break down on a weekly basis as the Titans — they have four fantasy-relevant players, and all four are almost certainly in your lineup every week.
AJ Brown and Julio Jones are locks at WR — it doesn’t appear off-season injury issues will affect either player in Week 1 (Brown had a “rest day” on Wednesday). And though this game could be a track meet, the Titans are 2.5-point favorites at home — when the Titans are favored/win, that typically spells good news for RB Derrick Henry. Regardless, you didn’t draft Henry to bench him on a whim in Week 1.
QB Ryan Tannehill is a little bit of a tougher call given you might have paired him with a high-upside second option at QB, but you literally drafted Tannehill to start him in a matchup like this — it’s a game lined at the second-highest total of the week (52.5 in some spots), and the matchup is ripe for the picking for Tannehill’s strengths.
I do want to see how TE Anthony Firkser is deployed, but I don’t want to use him in this matchup — the Cardinals gave up the seventh-fewest FPG to TEs last year, and S Budda Baker is a nasty matchup. Firkser is a guy to deploy — if at all — in good matchups, and this isn’t one of them.
For the Cardinals, I’m mostly rolling with a three-man band: QB Kyler Murray (elite QB option), RB Chase Edmonds (RB2 option), and WR DeAndre Hopkins (elite WR option). The high total suggests there will be points to be had through the air, which benefits Edmonds over James Conner.
The other guys I’m watching, of course, are Cardinal WRs Rondale Moore and AJ Green. It goes without saying that neither are season-long viable at this point — Moore is a rookie with an uncertain role, and Green was statistically the worst WR in football last year. But it looked like coach Kliff Kingsbury had a plan for the joystick-like Moore during the preseason, and reports on Green suggest he’s over the injuries that plagued him the last few seasons. We’ll see just how valid those reports are, and if so, we’ll reevaluate how many receivers are startable in the desert.