“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
— Mark Twain
Since Mark Twain died 10 years before the National Football League’s inaugural season we can safely assume that he never handicapped professional football. Even so, his skeptical nature as embodied in the previous quote would have likely made him very adept at the discipline. Nowhere in sports betting is it more valuable to be a ‘contrarian’ than in the National Football League. The NFL is not only the most popular sports league among North American fans it’s also the most popular among bettors. More specifically, it’s the most popular among recreational bettors which offers plenty of opportunities for ‘sharps’ to go against them.
This game is a case in point. The public loves the Cleveland Browns. And to be fair, there’s a lot to like with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jr. and highly underrated running back Nick Chubb reviving one of the league’s most hapless franchises. But could they be getting too much love too soon? The Browns went 7-8-1 last year but in the previous three seasons had a combined record of 4-44 SU including a winless 0-16 season in 2017 and a 1-15 season in 2016. The identity of the team is completely different now but it might be premature to think that they’re a Super Bowl contender this season. Even so, there are plenty of people doing just that–although the specific liability will vary from one sportsbook to another the Browns are among the top five most heavily bet teams in Super Bowl futures markets.
In the other corner, we have the Tennessee Titans who rank among the five least bet teams in Super Bowl futures markets. The Titans don’t have any real ‘superstars’ but what they do have is a team that is extremely competent in every phase of the game. In the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense gets a lot of run and for good reason. They may have the best personnel on that side of the ball of any team in the NFL. You seldom hear much about Tennessee’s defense from casual fans but consider this: The Titans’ had a positive points differential last year–one of only 8 AFC teams that scored more points than they gave up. This was despite having an offense that ranked bottom ten in most relevant categories. That means their defense was very god. Only two teams allowed fewer points per game than the Titans (17.7) (Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens). They were particularly effective against the pass ranking #6 in passing yards per game against.
This is a big year for quarterback Marcus Mariota and should he not do the job the Titans will have to turn to Ryan Tannehill. Mariotta has been set up for success and has an upgraded array of weapons around him. Derrick Henry was an absolute monster at running back down the stretch and could join the ranks of the league’s elite at the position this season. Receivers A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries are nice options at receiver and the return of tight end Delanie Walker from injury is huge. With the quality of the Titans’ defense all Mariota has to do is be competent–like the Titans are in every other phase of the game. Titans getting no respect from the public and it’s reflected not only on the pointspread in this game but also in the total which completely discounts the quality of their defense.