Titans-Broncos Week 1 MNF Betting Preview
The last game of Week 1, the 10:15 p.m. Monday Night Football game will feature the Denver Broncos facing off against the Tennessee Titans.
Titans vs. Broncos
Odds: Titans -3, over/under 41
The Titans will be looking to continue a scorching offensive run last year, where over the last 10 weeks of the season, the team had an 87% red-zone conversion rate once they switched to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. The Titans are projected as an 8.5 win team but have never won less than nine games under head coach Mike Vrabel’s tenure.
The team doubled down on both Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, paying both players this offseason, as well as using their first-round pick on Georgia offensive tackle Isiah Wilson to replace starting right tackle, Jack Conklin. They bring back wide receiver AJ Brown who was very efficient in the targets he got from Tannehill last year (he had over 1,000 yards receiving on 84 targets) and is looking to build on his strong performance to end last year. Tight end Jonnu Smith looks to take a leap as well.
The Broncos are a team in transition: While head coach Vic Fangio is still there, they brought in former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur to institute his offense as the offensive coordinator. General manager John Elway went about setting up quarterback Drew Lock with the best chance to succeed: On top of drafting primary wide receiver Courtland Sutton and primary tight end Noah Fant in last year’s draft, Elway went out and got Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, widely considered to be the best route runner of the last decade, as well as burner KJ Hamler out of Penn State.
Their defense is in flux, unfortunately. Star edge rusher Von Miller is out with a season-ending injury. Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe is now on the Ravens, safety Will Parks is now in Philadelphia, and edge rusher Bradley Chubb may miss the game as he’s still rehabbing an ACL injury.
The Broncos brought in Melvin Gordon to play running back and loaded up the team with pass-catching options to give Drew Lock the best chance to succeed. The Titans beat teams into submission with human wrecking ball Derrick Henry and complement it with Ryan Tannehill throwing to yards-after-catch receivers like Brown and Jonnu Smith.
This game certainly doesn’t appear to have shootout potential. Both teams played at a slow pace last year as both finished in the bottom-10 in the league in situation neutral snaps pacing last year. The Broncos signed away defensive tackle Jurrell Casey from the Titans, who has been a defensive standout against the run since he has come into the league. Casey will likely be preparing the defense for how to handle Derrick Henry, but how much success they’ll have against the man they call “Tractorcito” is to be seen.
The Titans’ defensive front-seven is a work in progress. Pro Football Focus has them ranked 21st, and they are relying on an awful lot of unproven and young players like defensive end Jeffrey Simmons and Linebacker Harold Landry.
The secondaries on both teams are very solid: The Titans boast safeties Kevin Byard (who led the league in interceptions two years ago) and Kenny Vacarro, used a second-round pick on stud cornerback Kristian Fulton from LSU, and signed Jonathan Joseph in free agency, in addition to having Adoree Jackson as a dependable cornerback.
The Broncos, ranked 18th by PFF, lost Chris Harris Jr. but replaced him with AJ Bouye. Safety Justin Simmons was franchise tagged and played at an elite level last year. Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan (who played with Fangio in Chicago as a slot cornerback) round out a solid group.
When the Broncos are playing a home game, during the first 2 weeks of the NFL season, they are 50-9-2 in this time. Since 2001, they are 20-2. This largely has to do with the air pressure difference, and the opposing team’s conditioning not being on the same footing as the Broncos, who have been preparing in training camp in altitude for several weeks.
Further, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio and general manager John Elway are now likely squarely on the hot seat for their jobs this season. Vrabel is considered an ascendant, well-respected head coach. The urgency to open the season with a win is much stronger in Denver. Last, we’ve almost all seen the statistic where teams who start 0-3, only 11% of them make the playoffs. Denver goes to Pittsburgh for their home opener and then hosts the Tom Brady-led Bucs in Weeks 2 and 3 respectively. The Titans fly back to Tennessee for their home opener against a tanking Jacksonville team before heading to play a Minnesota team in Week 3 that lost more starters than any other team in the NFL from last year and is a team trending downwards. The Broncos need this game more.
I think the Broncos offensive step forward is still very dependent on Drew Lock. That said, they still can pivot to the run game to support Lock with Melvin Gordon against an average-at-best Tennessee front seven, and use it to support the passing game, creating higher-percentage looks for Lock. The Titans will almost certainly not continue the red zone hot streak they were on last year, and if the Broncos can keep Derrick Henry from having a 200-yard day rushing, I think their secondary should be able to hold AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith somewhat in check.
This will be a defensive slugfest, and the Titans may have an issue coming into Denver with the conditioning difference. I see it as too difficult for them to win this game. I like the under 41 points and Denver +3. I expect something like a 21-17 victory for Denver.
I like Melvin Gordon to go over 42.5 yards rushing against a softer Titans defensive front who will tire out eventually in the second half trying to stop him. I also like this because given Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur not having any preseason games to get the kinks out of the offense he’s trying to install and adapt the team too, I think it’s likely they keep it vanilla until they see what they have.
The Picks: Under 41, Broncos +3, Melvin Gordon over 42.5 rushing yards