Ken Whisenhunt doesn't care for your so-called football game. He brings a 9-19-1 ATS preseason record into Friday's game between his Tennessee Titans and the Atlanta Falcons.
Is Ken Whisenhunt a good NFL coach? He almost won the Super Bowl in just his second season with the Arizona Cardinals, but without Kurt Warner under center, Whisenhunt hasn't enjoyed a lot of success. Perhaps this year will be different with Marcus Mariota at quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. This guy could be special – maybe even more special than Warner.
We should get at least a small taste of Mariota this Friday night (7:00 p.m. ET) when the Titans visit the Atlanta Falcons. The NFL odds at press time have Tennessee pegged as a 2.5-point underdog, which suggests an even matchup on paper. However, Whisenhunt has one of the worst preseason records of any coach in the league at 9-19-1 ATS, while Atlanta has a rookie in Dan Quinn who will presumably want to start things off with a bang.
Whisenhunt certainly has the bona fides to be a successful head coach. A two-time All-ACC tight end out of Georgia Tech who played four years in the bigs, Whisenhunt won Super Bowl XL as the offensive co-ordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers under Bill Cowher. If you're of a certain age, you'll remember the trick play Whisenhunt called that saw WR Antwaan Randle El throw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
Maybe Whisenhunt should call that play more often. Getting actual quarterbacks to throw TDs has been a problem ever since Warner retired. But the talent hasn't always been there, especially in Tennessee. Mariota should change all that, and as far as Friday is concerned, Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst have both played well in exhibition games for the Titans.
It's Salisbury State Day
Quinn wasn't quite good enough to play in the NFL – he put in his four years in Division III on the defensive line at Salisbury State (now Salisbury University, alas) – but he reached the Super Bowl in both his years as defensive co-ordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, winning one championship and earning his first head-coaching gig with the Falcons.
Friday will be a useful opportunity for Quinn to make a strong first impression at the Georgia Dome. We should point out that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has a 25-11-1 career ATS preseason record, so if Quinn is bringing that special sauce to his preparations with the Falcons, they should be playing with a little extra verve this week.
As for the quarterbacks behind starter Matt Ryan, the Falcons have T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree, both of whom have put in some quality preseason performances. Yates in particular was a strong back-up for the Houston Texans before arriving in Atlanta last year. They're working with a new scheme under offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan, and things have reportedly gone very well in training camp, so we expect that to spill over onto the field Friday night. Bet the Falcons with confidence, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Falcons –2.5 (–103) at Pinnacle