No team likes a bye in Week 4 of the season because that means 13 straight weeks of football after (and likely injuries with no off week), but the Titans had no choice in the matter. How are their NFL futures odds looking at the break?
Mariota Better Than Expected
I thought Tennessee might be the worst team in the NFL this season, and I definitely thought they had the least amount of overall talent other than perhaps at quarterback with 2015 No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner at Oregon (and boy do the Ducks miss him). The Titans generally had a wins total of 5.5 on NFL odds entering the season. I've seen nothing to make me change my mind in originally picking 'under' that total.
The Titans looked fantastic in Week 1, winning 42-14 at Tampa Bay in a battle between Mariota and Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick this year and 2013 Heisman winner at Florida State. It was the first time QBs taken No. 1 & No. 2 had met in a season opener. While Winston was supposed to be the more NFL-ready guy having played in a pro-style offense at FSU and Mariota the bigger project coming from Oregon's spread/shotgun system, things looked opposite in that game. Mariota finished 13-for-16 for 209 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. That was good for a perfect 158.3 rating. Mariota joined Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to throw for four or more TD passes in their first NFL game. The Titans hadn't scored more than 28 points in 2014 on the way to a 2-14 mark.
So that led people to overvalue Tennessee a bit and it was even a road favorite at Cleveland in Week 2. But the Titans came back to earth in a 28-14 loss. Mariota was good again, completing 21-for-37 for 257 yards and two scores. But his offensive line was a mess, allowing him to be sacked seven times.
And last week, the Titans blew a potential upset of defending AFC South champion Indianapolis in Tennessee's home opener. The Titans trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter but scored the next 27 points. However, the desperate Colts scored the next 21 and held on for a 35-33 win when a Titans 2-point try with 47 seconds left failed. It was another solid game for Mariota, as he was 27-for-44 for 367 yards, two scores and two picks.
Mariota entered the bye week ranking eighth in the NFL in passing yards (833), tied for fourth in TD passes (8) and seventh in rating (109.2). He's your clear Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. The Titans are No. 10 in total offense. They are also No. 10 in rushing at 126.0 yards per game. Bishop Sankey leads with 126 yards on 29 carries. Kendall Wright is the top receiver with 13 catches for 213 yards and two scores. Tennessee is No. 6 in total defense. I expect that number to start getting much worse.
Tennessee is 2-1 against the spread on NFL picks and 3-0 'over/under.' It is +650 to win the AFC South.
The Tennessee Titans come out of the bye with three straight home games, facing the Bills, Dolphins and Falcons. Tennessee probably won't be favored in any of them. Then Mariota and Co. go to Houston and New Orleans. Underdogs there. Carolina visits Nashville on Nov. 15. Then the Titans get their one Thursday appearance on Nov. 19 at Jacksonville and they could be favorites there. Ditto possibly against Oakland on Nov. 29 and almost surely against the visiting Jaguars on Dec. 6. The season concludes at the Jets, Patriots, home to the Texans and at the Colts.
NFL Picks: Tennessee finishes 4-12 and Mariota wins OROY honors. That should be enough for Ken Whisenhunt to keep his job. He is +1500 to be the first coach fired.