NFL Picks: Chiefs vs. Titans Week 5

Jason Lake

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 3:18 PM GMT

Two of the NFL’s most improved teams will do battle this Sunday at LP Field. The NFL lines don’t seem too optimistic about the home side’s chances.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to September 29 inclusive:

11-10-1 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

2-3 Totals

Check out our NFL Picks: Week 5 Betting Odds Report for up-to-date info on line movements.

Here we are at the quarter pole of the 2013 NFL betting season. Some of the things we were expecting have come to pass; for example, the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) are making hay with new head coach Andy Reid and new starting quarterback Alex Smith. But there have also been some surprises along the way. Did you have the Tennessee Titans (3-1 SU, 3-0-1 ATS) on your radar screen? First round’s on you, then.

Sadly for the Titans, they’ve lost starting QB Jake Locker to a hip injury. It’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the upstarts when they welcome the Chiefs this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS), and the NFL odds aren’t shining down on Nashville. At press time, the Titans are 2.5-point home dogs at most online sportsbooks, with the bulk of the early action on Kansas City.

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Remember the Clash of the Titans

If you’re going to “buy low” on an NFL team, you usually want a team that’s got some sort of hidden upside. Tennessee’s upside was really, really good at hiding. The Titans were 6-10 SU and ATS last year, exceeding their 4.6 Pythagorean Wins and their 3.3 Estimated Wins. Football Outsiders had Tennessee ranked No. 30 in efficiency, ahead of only two teams: the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9 ATS), and the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs (5-11 ATS).

Analytics notwithstanding, the Titans did make a number of offseason moves to improve their team. RG Chance Warmack was drafted No. 10 overall out of the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide program, and LG Andy Levitre was signed away from the Buffalo Bills after being named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2009. That added protection has done wonders for Tennessee’s offense. It was still just No. 18 overall in efficiency going into Week 4, but that was a whole lot better than last year’s No. 29 ranking.

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Tragically Hip 

We might also have expected improvement from Jake Locker in his second year as a starter, and with a little more time to work in the backfield, his efficiency numbers have risen substantially. Football Outsiders had Locker ranked No. 31 in passing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) last year at minus-265, barely ahead of Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert at minus-268. This year, Locker stood at No. 14 overall through the first three games; his plus-102 passing DYAR was just one spot below Chicago’s Jay Cutler at plus-118 DYAR.

Which makes this a particularly lousy time for Locker to get hurt. He was carted off the field after getting stepped on during last week’s game against the New York Jets; reports at press time suggest Locker could be headed for temporary injured reserve status. That leaves Fitzpatrick as Tennessee’s quarterback against the Chiefs and beyond.

The Shoe Fitz

It’s only been two years since Fitzpatrick signed that infamous six-year deal with the Bills after leading them to a 4-1 start. They went 2-9 the rest of the way, although it was later revealed that Fitzpatrick suffered broken ribs in Week 8. Buffalo released him after a so-so 2012 season; his plus-120 passing DYAR was one step above Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman (plus-118), who is also going to be looking for a job very soon.

Getting away from Buffalo’s post-Jim Kelly QB carousel should do Fitzpatrick a world of good. However, he’ll be facing a very nasty Chiefs defense that ranked No. 3 in the NFL after Week 3, and is coming off a 31-7 spanking of the New York Giants (+3.5 away). There could be some decent money to be made on Fitzy in the upcoming weeks/months, but in this matchup, I’m following the sharps and grabbing Kansas City.

NFL Pick: Take the Chiefs –1 (–125) at Pinnacle

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