Perceptions of NFL teams can change dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. The New York Giants, for example, are down and slipping out of the playoff picture.
The turnaround in Tennessee has been something to behold. After a devastating 0-6 start, the Titans are on a four-game roll, and quarterback Vince Young’s stock is up.
The fun started when Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher put Young in at quarterback and benched Kerry Collins.
“It’s a testament to Fisher’s coaching ability that this team has rallied and is playing at such a high level,” Las Vegas Sports Consultants odds director Tony Sinisi said.
LVSC oddsmaker Mike Seba said his power rating for the Titans has shifted by about a touchdown from the time Young took over to now. Tennessee is a 3-point home favorite over Arizona today.
“From an outsider’s view, Fisher waited too long to make the change. Young’s been solid, but there really was no pressure on him following the horrible start,” Seba said. “That’s about to change.”
Can the Titans keep it up? Here’s offering praise to three other AFC teams that started the season miserably but have righted the ship to get back into playoff contention.
We’re used to the San Diego Chargers sleepwalking out of the gate on an annual basis, and they had company in Jacksonville and Miami. Two of those three teams are favored to win today.
Money has surfaced in support of the Jaguars, who are 3-point underdogs at San Francisco.
Jacksonville has won three straight, taking advantage of a relatively easy schedule that remains favorable to the end of the season. It’s not pretty at times, but coach Jack Del Rio’s team has a penchant for winning close games.
One player has made an incredible impact for the Jaguars. The emergence of wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker has changed the fortunes of the offense. He has 47 receptions for 694 yards and is a red-zone weapon with six touchdown catches.
Sims-Walker loosens defenses for running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
“The major question mark at the outset of the season was who would catch the ball in Jacksonville,” Seba said. “Sims-Walker’s success has dramatically made the Jacksonville offense more versatile and tougher to defend.”
The Dolphins have shown resilience this season, having lost several close games while facing daunting competition. Their losses have come against some of the league’s elite teams — New Orleans, New England, Atlanta, San Diego and Indianapolis.
An injury to running back Ronnie Brown will hurt the Dolphins, who are riding a two-game winning streak into Buffalo. Miami, favored by 3 to 31/2 points over the Bills, gets high marks for playing with passion, but injuries are taking a toll.
“I don’t think they’ll be able to overcome the loss of Brown,” Seba said. “Ricky Williams will be solid in the short term, but he will likely wear down getting the bulk of the carries the rest of the way.”
This is a huge rivalry game for the Bills, and it might be a bad spot for the Dolphins, with talented young quarterback Chad Henne facing a solid defense in a hostile environment.
The Chargers are cruising now, winning five straight, while Denver had been self-imploding before its Thanksgiving Day win over the Giants. The AFC West crown is well within reach for San Diego, a 131/2-point home favorite over Kansas City.
“The players in San Diego have a comfort level when they dig themselves a gaping hole. They just don’t panic,” Sinisi said. “Defensively, they’re starting to play much better.”
The Chargers are strong finishers. But Seba said, “Their early miscues catch up with them eventually, as they usually have to hit the road in the playoffs.”
Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at email@example.com. Hear the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 3 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM) and Sirius 98.