The Atlanta Falcons were thinking Superbowl at the start of the year. Even many experts had them in a rematch with the Packers in the playoffs. However, at this point the Falcons just want a playoff birth. The Tennessee Titans didn’t have much expectations coming into this season, given the quarterback situation, but have been playing decent. In fact, the Titans are decent enough to be tied with the Falcons at 5-4. The Falcons lost a tough one against divisional foes the New Orleans Saints in overtime. The Titans on the other hand put a beat down on the Carolina Panthers, 30-3.
Part of the problem for the Falcons has been the below average performance of Matt Ryan so far this year. There have been several big games where Ryan is just come out flat. Many of their marquee games against teams such as the Ravens, Bears, Packers, and Saints have come up as losses. Last week Ryan came up big with 351 yards with 2 TDs, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback against the Saints. The Falcons handed the game to the Saints after they failed on a 4th and inches deep in their own territory. In lieu of Ryan’s lackluster season, the defense has been playing well. Most notably against the run, where they are only allowing 90 yards per game. The Titans, a team that has been well known for their excellent ground game, has been struggling to get any production out of superstar back Chris Johnson. If you recall, Johnson held out for a monster pay-day at the beginning of the year. It is safe to say that he hasn’t lived up to his pay check. The Titans rank dead rushing the ball (32nd), so they could find it hard running against a stout rush defense of the Falcons (3rd). Against the pass the Falcons a little above average at 12th in the NFL. With the lack of a running game, the Titans may need Matt Hasselbeck to pull out the victory.
Hasselbeck came to the Titans this season from the Seahawks expecting a top-notch running game supporting him. It hasn’t come to fruition, and Hasselbeck has had to take on a bigger role in the offense. Surprisingly, Hasselbeck currently has a better looking stat sheet than Ryan’s. Hasselbeck has 14 TDs and 7 INTs, to Ryan’s 14 TDs and 10 INTs. The Titans number one receiver, Kenny Britt, suffered a season ending injury early in the year, so Hasselbeck has been productive without a running game and star receiver. On defense, the Titans are tied with the Seahawks at 15th, only one spot behind the Falcons. They do however only surrender 19 points a game, which is 7th in the NFL.
Titans vs. Falcons Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Tennessee Titans +6.5
@Atlanta Falcons -6.5
Over 44 (-110)
Titans vs. Falcons Pick:
The loss against the Saints last week was a hard pill to swallow for the Falcons. That was a game that the Falcons had to win at home, it could have been a significant turning point in their season. I feel like the loss, at least for this week, is going to carry over to this week. Simply put, I don’t feel like the Falcons have any chemistry this year. I am not proclaiming that the Titans are a good team, but I think this a good spot for the Titans to keep it close. They are feeling pretty good about themselves at this point in the year I believe. If you were to tell me that they would be without Kenny Britt, and last in rushing at the start of the season, and be 5-4, I probably wouldn’t believe it. But in any case, Hasselbeck has done a good job minimizing the mistakes, something that has been plaguing the Falcons.
I see this game ending up in the 23-20 range, so take the points in what should be a close game. If oddsmakers thought this was going to be a big Falcons victory, I think this line would have been at -7.5 or -8.
PICK = Titans +6.5