We continue to provide our Week 1 NFL picks, and today we focus on the matchup between the Buccaneers and the Titans. Which of these rookie QBs can earn their team the victory?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided on their franchise quarterback when they selected Jameis Winston with the first-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. One pick later, the Tennessee Titans selected Marcus Mariota with the hope that he can turn their franchise around. It will take some time for Winston and Mariota to become what the Buccaneers and Titans want them to be but it certainly won’t take long for them to meet for the first time with Tampa Bay set to host Tennessee in Week 1 of the 2015 season. Winston & Mariota both have the potential to be star players but only one can open their NFL career with a win as all eyes will be on Raymond James Stadium in Week 1.
How Has The Betting Line Moved?
Open: Tampa Bay -3
Current: Tampa Bay -3
There hasn’t been much movement in the NFL Odds for this one, as it’s a fairly challenging game to handicap. There are two rookie quarterbacks start for two teams that were among the worst in the NFL last season. As of now, it’s hard to get a read on if either will really be better. Expect to see a bit more movement as we progress through the preseason. We’ll see if one of these rookie quarterbacks starts to show something.
3 Key Storylines
The Rookie Quarterbacks: There is no doubt about the biggest story heading in to this game with Winston and Mariota set to go up against one another for the first time. Winston has all of the tools to succeed at the NFL level and the key might be his intelligence that his coaches keep raving about. The Buccaneers already have some talented pieces in place to help maximize Winston’s potential including three massive targets in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and he will be expected to take advantage of those weapons and move the football through the air early on. Mariota doesn’t have the same level of talent around him although tight end Delanie Walker is underrated and rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is an intriguing piece. Both quarterbacks have the potential to be very good but we think Winston will have more success early on with the better supporting cast.
Coaching Carousel: One of the storylines to keep an eye on is how new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt brings Mariota along. Whisenhunt helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger in 2006 and then really helped Philip Rivers’ development as a quarterback while working as the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers in 2013 so expectations are high for Mariota’s development in the long-term. Meanwhile, head coach Lovie Smith’s decision to bring in Josh McCown didn’t work out in Tampa Bay last year but it could work out in the long run since it helped them land the first-overall pick and draft Winston. Whisenhunt and Smith are two veteran coaches with the pressure on them to produce results this season and it will be interesting to see how they respond beginning with their head-to-head matchup in Week 1 that could set the tone for the season.
Running Back Revivals: Winston and Mariota will be talked about the most and for good reason but another important storyline for both teams is the play of their running backs after struggling to move the ball on the ground last season. Tennessee ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards Bishop Sankey averaging just 3.7 yards per carry as a rookie and they will expect more out of him and Dexter McCluster this season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing yards and are hoping that Doug Martin can rediscover his 2012 rookie form when he ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. The insertion of rookie quarterbacks means running back play will be that much more important for both teams and it will be interesting to see if they can improve on the ground with Sankey and Martin in particular in the spotlight.
Bet Early Or Bet Later…. And What’s The Play?
The line hasn’t moved since the Titans opened as 3-point favorites but it could drop to 2.5 at some books so it makes sense to jump on this line now if you plan to back Tennessee with your NFL picks. Otherwise wait if you like Tampa Bay and hope that you can get them favored by less than a field goal at home. The Buccaneers couldn’t be any worse than they were last season even if Winston is only average in his rookie season but they still have too many holes on defense to expect a major improvement. Mariota and the Titans should be able to keep this game close and give themselves a chance to win late as they try to steal an early victory on the road in Tampa Bay or at the very least cover the field goal.
NFL Pick: Tennessee +3 at 5Dimes