Broncos vs. Titans Total Pick

Darin Zank

Saturday, December 7, 2013 8:03 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 8:03 PM UTC

Earlier this week we previewed Sunday's Tennessee-Denver game and made a pick on the side. Today we take a look at the game from a little different angle, and offer our pick on the total.

Titans-Broncos: The Number

Most sportsbooks we consulted opened the total on this game at a nice round 50, but as of Saturday morning most books had also dropped that total to 49 or 48.5, probably because of the weather forecast.

Titans-Broncos Game Set-Up

Denver is 10-2, leading the AFC by a game over New England.

Tennessee is 5-7, on the outside looking in on the AFC wild-card picture.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-28 win at Kansas City last Sunday.

But the last time Denver played a “cold weather” game, three weeks ago at New England, Manning only went 19-for-36 for 150 yards. Instead, the Broncos gave the ball to Knowshon Moreno 37 times, for 224 yards.

Tennessee just lost last week at Indianapolis 22-14 as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick committed four turnovers, three in Colts territory.

The Weather

The updated forecast for Sunday afternoon in Denver calls for temperatures in the teens, a chance of snow, but light winds.

How might this affect the total on this game?

Well, obviously it's more difficult to throw and catch and kick a football when it's cold. But all that doesn't necessarily mean a game will be low-scoring, or play UNDER its total. Poor throws and fumbles can kill drives, but they can also set up short fields.

Wind is the big problem when it comes to completing passes and making field goals, and apparently the wind won't be too much of a factor Sunday at Mile High.

Titans-Broncos By the Numbers

Denver still leads the league in total offense (459 YPG), passing yardage (337 YPG) and scoring (39 PPG). But defensively the Broncos rank 27th overall (384 YPG) and seventh-worst in points allowed (26 PG).

Tennessee, meanwhile, ranks a very respectable seventh in pass defense, allowing only 213 YPG through the air.

Injury Update

Both teams, like many others at this point in the season, are a little banged up headed into this game.

Tennessee was down to its third-string tight end last week, and for a while had a back-up lineman in at fullback. Injuries at spots like that can have a detrimental effect on both the running and passing games.

Denver, meanwhile, played last week without four regular defensive starters, and all four, including DBs Rahim Moore (IR) and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, are expected to miss Sunday's game, too.

But the Broncos might get good news with the expected return of TE Julius Thomas, who's missed the last two games with a sore knee.

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The Kickers

As we always say, kickers can have a lot to say about whether a game goes OVER or stays UNDER its total. Just look at Thursday night's game; Houston's Randy Bullock and Jacksonville's Josh Scobee combined to make four field goals, and the game played OVER its total of 43 by four points.

But kicking in the cold, on a field that might get a little slick, can be tough. We doubt there will be any 50-yarders made, or even attempted, Sunday in Denver.

Denver kicker Matt Prater is 15-for-16 on field goals this year, with a long of 54.

Tennessee K Rob Bironas is 18-for-21 on field goals this season, with a long of 47. 

Titans-Broncos Totals Betting Trends

The Titans are 7-4-1 on the OVER/UNDERS this season, even though their games have averaged just44 total points. Apparently, the oddsmakers have been under-estimating the totals on Tennessee games.

The Broncos are 10-2 on the totals this year, as their games have averaged a league-high 65 points. Oddsmakers haven't been able to post totals high enough on Denver games.

The totals have gone 5-2-1 the last eight times Denver has been favored by double-digits in NFL odds, going back to last year.

Our Take on the Total

On a normal day this game might be pegged with a total of 55 or 56. But the biggest factor in handicapping the total on this contest is the weather, and how it might effect, most importantly, the quarterbacks and the play-calling.

Much has been said about Manning's past performances in bad weather, but his biggest problem is the wind. And yet for Sunday it doesn't look like the wind will be too big a factor. Besides, Manning can dink-and-dunk a defense to death, too.

Fitzpatrick has some experience playing in cold weather, starting for three seasons up in Buffalo. But he also threw 54 interceptions his last three seasons with the Bills.

The cold's biggest effect on this game might come in the play-calling, where we expect both teams to run the ball with regularity and some success. Which helps keep the clock running.

Denver might still score 30 points Sunday; but can Tennessee score 20? We have our doubts. We're thinking the Broncos ultimately will be able to grind out a victory.

NFL Pick: So we'll go with the UNDER 49 offered at Heritage Sports for our free NFL pick on the total for this game. 

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