Marcus Mariota will not be playing for the Tennessee Titans this week. Does this mean we have to put the Houston Texans in our Week 8 football picks? It depends on the odds.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 30: 22-17-1 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 18-26 Total
All week long, people have been living under a dark cloud of existential angst. Would Marcus Mariota make his return for the Tennessee Titans this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) when they visit the Houston Texans? Until that question was answered, bettors weren't going to get their NFL odds for this matchup.
Here comes the sun. As we go to press Friday afternoon, the Titans have just announced that Mariota (knee) has been ruled out for Week 8; Zach Mettenberger will get the start instead. Does this mean we should auto-bet the Texans this week? Not necessarily; Mettenberger had a rough ride last week, but the Titans defense played well enough to earn the cover in a 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (–5.5 away). The contratrians were right.
You're a Looney
Figuring out our Week 8 NFL picks is going to be a bit challenging – we still don't have the odds for this game, that's how fresh the Mariota news was at press time. No worries: the consensus line on the Strip is Houston –3.5, with a total of 43.5 points, so we'll use that for the purposes of this article. Fresh odds should be available as you read this.
We felt confident enough about the downgrade in quality between Mariota and Mettenberger to fade the Titans last week, especially with back-up center Andy Gallik making his first NFL start. Gallik ended up leaving that game after suffering a concussion/stinger; freshly-signed Joe Looney, who flamed out with the San Francisco 49ers last year, played the second half and will reportedly make the start against Houston. Uh-oh.
No Shorts, No Service
Can Dick LeBeau's No. 9-ranked Titans defense (No. 6 pass, No. 30 rush) steal another cover? It's certainly possible. They held Atlanta's No. 7-ranked offense in check, and Houston's offense is way down the list at No. 27 overall (No. 27 offense, No. 29 defense). We have to treat those numbers carefully, though. QB Ryan Mallett is no longer part of the equation, but then again, neither is RB Arian Foster, who's out for the year after tearing his Achilles.
If that weren't enough, WR Cecil Shorts is out for Week 8 with a hamstring injury. And the offensive line could be compromised: RG Brandon Brooks (toe) is reportedly a game-time decision, and RT Derek Newton (toe) is considered day-to-day. What to do? Well, the first odds just went up on the board, Houston is laying 4.5 points, and the very early consensus is 100 percent on the Titans. Good enough for us. Make it a tiny bet on Tennessee, and may the prolate spheroid be with you
Free NFL Pick: Take the Titans +4.5 at 5Dimes