It’s almost inconceivable that the Tennessee Titans, led by a mediocre quarterback in Jake Locker, could go into a game as double-digit favorites.
Tennessee (4-4) ranks 24th in the NFL in total offense and 20th in scoring, averaging 21.6 points. But the Titans, who have one win by double digits, are 12-point favorites today, and one-sided betting has been pushing the line toward 13.
Extraordinary circumstances are involved, because the Titans’ opponent is one of the worst teams in league history. How bad are the Jacksonville Jaguars? Halfway through the season, their obituary is not complete.
The Jaguars have been outscored by 178 points while compiling an 0-8 record. Blaine Gabbert, formerly known as their franchise quarterback, is benched and replaced by Chad Henne. Their top wide receiver, Justin Blackmon, is suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The negatives are piling up on the underdog, and handicapper Dana Lane is recommending a play on the favorite.
“The Titans have not enjoyed the success against the Jaguars that the rest of the NFL has. In fact, two of Jacksonville’s past seven wins came against Tennessee,” Lane said. “Despite that, I can’t back a team that is weak on the offensive line, defensive line and at linebacker. With Blackmon out, the Jaguars will have a difficult time moving the ball.
“I’m feeling more comfortable backing Locker, as I see his decision-making process improve. Locker’s 106.3 passer rating on third down indicates to me that he is less likely to make a bad choice or force a throw to blow a cover.”
Double-digit ’dogs are 11-8 against the spread this season, but the Jaguars are 1-3 in that role. Lane is laying the points and looking over the total of 41.
Lane (DanaLaneSports.com) analyzes the rest of today’s Week 10 lineup:
■ Philadelphia at Green Bay (Pick): Seneca Wallace will be replacing Aaron Rodgers, one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, for the foreseeable future. But let’s not lose sight of a Packers running attack that averages almost 147 yards per game, ranking second in the NFL. What’s more is they rank only 11th in rushing attempts (236), a clear indication of the offensive line’s ability to run block. In fact, since Week 5, rookie Eddie Lacy is leading the NFL in rushing. I won’t allow Nick Foles’ seven touchdown passes last week to blind me, especially when it came against an Oakland defense that didn’t have enough confidence in the cornerbacks to bring any pressure on Foles. Picks: Packers and Over 47.
■ Buffalo at Pittsburgh (-3): The Steelers are hearing the criticism from their 2-6 start, but after reviewing their past two games there doesn’t seem to be signs of players quitting. The love for Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau spilled out last week following the meltdown in the fourth quarter at New England. The players seem to respect and have confidence in LeBeau’s scheme, so I expect the Steelers to perform as if they know LeBeau’s job is on the line. The Bills are 1-6 ATS in the teams’ past seven meetings. Picks: Steelers and Under 43½.
■ Oakland at New York Giants (-7): One of the biggest sins in NFL wagering is holding on to last week’s big performance. The public remembers the seven touchdowns thrown by the Eagles’ Foles but might forget the 560 yards of offense the Raiders amassed. The New York and Philadelphia defenses are similar statistically, so it’s hard for me to believe Oakland won’t have success. Injuries on the offensive line have nullified the Giants’ run game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. Oakland ranks sixth in run defense. The Raiders are 6-1 ATS in their past seven games following a straight-up loss. Picks: Raiders and Under 44.
■ St. Louis at Indianapolis (-9½): The Rams, who lost quarterback Sam Bradford to injury, have dropped three straight. Their hopes of offensive efficiency seem miniscule. Although ranked just 22nd in defense, the Colts seem to be opportunistic, led by linebacker Robert Mathis (11½ sacks). Indianapolis is 9-1 ATS versus teams with a losing record. Picks: Colts and Under 44.
■ Seattle (-4½) at Atlanta: The Seahawks have lived too close to the edge in winning their past two games against Tampa Bay and St. Louis. Looking at the whole picture, four of Seattle’s eight wins were by five points or fewer. With nothing to lose, the Falcons should be less predictable on offense this week. Atlanta is 14-2 ATS in its past 16 games after scoring fewer than 15 points in the previous game. Picks: Falcons and Under 45.
■ Cincinnati (-1½) at Baltimore: A team with a championship pedigree is on life support. I like that combination because I always will get their best effort. Expect the pride of defenses past to surface and show the Ravens are not dead yet. Last week, Baltimore held Cleveland running back Willis McGahee to 31 yards rushing. Stopping the Bengals’ Giovani Bernard will be more difficult. Cincinnati is without the NFL’s best defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, and that should take some sting out of its pass rush. The Bengals are 3-8-2 ATS in their past 13 versus AFC North opponents. Picks: Ravens and Under 44.
■ Detroit at Chicago (Pick): In the first matchup, the Lions dominated for three quarters and led 37-16 going into the fourth. There was little doubt that Detroit was a better team. I’m not rushing to the window if Jay Cutler starts at quarterback for the Bears, because groin injuries can be tricky. The Lions had two weeks to prepare. Injuries have weakened Chicago’s defensive front. Detroit is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. Picks: Lions and Under 52.
■ Carolina at San Francisco (-6): What’s not to like about the 49ers this week? They have won five straight games and had two weeks to prepare for the Panthers, who have yet to prove they belong on the big stage. San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith is expected to see action, bolstering a pass rush that has been a weak spot. Smith has missed the past five games and still leads the team with 4½ sacks. The defense ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring, allowing 18.1 points per game. Picks: 49ers and Under 43.
■ Houston at Arizona (-3): Texans quarterback Case Keenum will have more of the playbook opened to him, meaning he will pass all day long because the running game is in shambles. We can’t forget about the possible inspirational factor that might exist as coach Gary Kubiak watches from home after collapsing on the field last week. Houston is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 games in November. Picks: Texans and Under 41½.
■ Denver (-7) at San Diego: Much has been made of Peyton Manning, but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers also is having an impressive season. Rivers leads the league with a 72.2 completion percentage, which would break Drew Brees’ record of 71.2 in 2011. Rivers also ranks third in the league with a 106.5 passer rating and fourth in touchdown passes (19). San Diego’s offensive line has been surprisingly solid considering its five combinations in eight games due to injuries. Manning’s health was discussed last week, as many have suggested that his supposed ankle injury is a cover-up to something more serious. The Broncos are 3-9-2 ATS in their past 14 meetings with the Chargers. Picks: Chargers and Under 58½.
■ Dallas at New Orleans (-6½): I’m staying with the popular theory that the Cowboys will lose on the road to Brees and the Saints. Dallas faces a situation that is unlikely to produce a cover, facing a New Orleans team off a loss to the Jets. The Cowboys need to find a willingness to run the ball soon, or Brees could have a huge day against a secondary that seems to show up every other week. Also, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired by Dallas last season and was not shy in voicing his displeasure. The Cowboys have held up against average quarterbacks but have been lit up against the elite. The Saints are 20-6 ATS in their past 26 home games. Picks: Saints and Under 54.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS