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Handicapper embraces Titans as double-digit ‘dog

What makes Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young dangerous is his ability to escape the pocket and elude defenders on the run. If he’s not running, he’s not much of a threat.

Young is a below-average NFL passer, throwing for only nine touchdowns this season.

Young has been slowed by a right quadriceps injury and will be a game-time decision to play today, when the Titans try to upset the San Diego Chargers in an AFC wild-card playoff game.

The Chargers, 10-point home favorites, have been getting betting support after the line opened at 9.

Young’s status might be one reason not to like Tennessee. But with veteran Kerry Collins ready to start if Young is not, the Titans still look attractive as double-digit underdogs, according to The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall.

“Even if it’s Collins, I actually don’t mind him in there. They don’t lose a lot with Collins,” Marshall said. “I swear I think the Titans can win this game straight up. I love the fact Tennessee is getting all those points.”

San Diego (11-5) overcame a terrible start to the season and finished with six straight wins and covers. One of those victories came against Tennessee, 23-17 in overtime on Dec. 9. The Chargers erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and won on a LaDainian Tomlinson run.

The Titans’ defense is rugged against the run, especially with tackle Albert Haynesworth healthy, and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has shown he can be pressured into mistakes.

With or without Young, Marshall said the Titans (10-6) have enough offensive weapons to keep the game close with Collins, running back LenDale White and kicker Rod Bironas.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher is 12-3-1 in his past 16 games as an underdog. San Diego has lost at home in its past two playoff appearances, and first-year coach Norv Turner is unproven in the postseason.

“I think the Chargers are just a bully team, and it’s a false alarm with them. They have beaten a lot of lesser teams,” Marshall said. “I still don’t believe the Chargers are playing that great.”

Marshall said one equalizer could be the weather, as it is expected to rain in San Diego.

In today’s NFC wild-card game, Tampa Bay is a 3-point home favorite over the New York Giants.

The Giants, coming off a 38-35 regular season-ending loss to the undefeated New England Patriots, are 7-1 straight up on the road.

The Buccaneers rank No. 2 in the league in total defense and have excellent cover cornerbacks. With tight end Jeremy Shockey out, Giants quarterback Eli Manning is missing one of his favorite targets.

“I don’t trust Eli in this game. He blows too hot and cold,” said Marshall, who leans to a play on Tampa Bay.

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