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Odds and Ends

NFL Divisional Round Best Bets: TEN @ BAL

by Covers.com
Updated On: January 8, 2020, 5:32 pm ET

Oddsmakers opened Baltimore as a 10-point home favorite after enjoying a bye week in the opening round of the postseason. But on the heels of the Titans’ upset of the New England Patriots on the road in the Wild Card Round, it looks like early money is on Tennessee and has walked this spread down to Ravens -9.

We not only break down the best ways to wager on the pointspread and total for Titans at Ravens, but lay the betting blueprint for this Divisional Round rager: from quick-paying picks to team and player props.

TENNESSEE TITANS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (-9, 47)

QUICK HITTER

When it comes to chances to score six inside the 20-yard line, the Titans and Ravens don’t miss. Tennessee and Baltimore rank No. 1 and No. 2 in red-zone touchdown percentage – 76.6 and 67.19 percent, respectively.

The Ravens, of course, have options when lurking in the red zone, with Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram boasting a collective 15 rushing touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Titans RB Derrick Henry is pretty much a guaranteed TD on the goal line, with 14 rushing TDs inside the red zone in the regular season and another one-yard touchdown carry in the Wild Card win over New England.

Twelve of the Ravens’ 16 games have opened with a touchdown as the first score (eight of them with Baltimore striking first) while the Titans games saw a TD from either side on the scoreboard first in seven of Ryan Tannehill’s 11 starts (including seven in a row to end the regular season before a Patriots field goal opened scoring in the Wild Card Round).

PREDICTION: First score method – Touchdown -163

 

FIRST HALF

Baltimore has been held to 14 or fewer points in a first half just six times all season, ranking No. 1 in the NFL in first-half production at 17.8 average points in the opening 30 minutes. That dipped slightly to 15.6 points per opening half in the final five games of the schedule. 

The Ravens Offense comes in here with fresh legs, not only getting the opening round of the postseason off but sitting key skill players in a meaningless Week 17 win over Pittsburgh. Jackson and this scoring attack will be recharged and anxious to get going come Saturday night, and will likely have a few more wrinkles thrown into the playbook thanks to the helpful hiatus. 

Tennessee, which averages just over nine points per first half, does the bulk of its scoring in the final 30 minutes, putting up a league-high 15.4 second-half points per game. The Titans are playing their third straight road game in three weeks and could get caught a little flat in the first half, with a possible letdown coming off the big win at Foxborough last weekend. 

PREDICTION: First half Baltimore -5.5

 

TEAM/PLAYER PROP

Much is made of the Ravens’ run game, but the passing play has been almost as impressive, thanks in large part to the efforts of TE Mark Andrews. He’s emerged as Baltimore’s top target in 2019, reeling in 64 balls for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Andrews sat the final game of the regular season with an ankle injury but is expected to be ready to roll in the Divisional Round after two weeks off. He could get called upon often if the run game is slowed by Ingram’s current calf injury. Tennessee is not only strong against the run – ranked 10th in run defense DVOA at FootballOutsiders – but also possesses a disruptive pass rush.

The Titans have been roughed up by tight ends this season, allowing the sixth most fantasy points against to the position. They allowed 38 yards on three catches to Patriots greybeard TE Ben Watson in the Wild Card Round and finished the regular season with opposing tight ends posting 62 yards or more in four of their final five games, including big days from Saints TE Jared Cook and Colts TE Jack Doyle.

Andrews has gone for 50 or more yards in five of his last seven games and should continue to shine after two weeks to rest that wonky ankle.

PREDICTION: Mark Andrews Over 48.5 yards receiving -115

 

TOTAL BET

The Over/Under for this Divisional Round matchup opened at 48.5 points and has since dropped to 47, with early action on the Under. Despite the Ravens and Titans boasting two of the most efficient offenses in the second half of the schedule, this game is shaking down to be a grinder.

Tennessee isn’t blind to the fact that stopping Jackson and the Baltimore offense isn’t an option. But they can slow it down. The Titans will need to play a little defense on offense and control clock and tempo with the ground game, chewing up as much time of possession as possible before handing the ball back to the Ravens.

Henry is the man for the job, gaining 6.3 yards per carry over the final two months of the schedule. And even with the Patriots Defense knowing full well that Henry was coming, he still collected 5.4 yards per run in the Wild Card game. The Titans have been great on third down in recent showings with a 45.7 percent first-down rate on those tries over the past three outings.

Baltimore is just as good at moving the chains – third in third-down conversion rate – and ate up more clock than any other NFL team this season, posting an average TOP of 34:32 on the year and wearing opposing defenses paper thin with more than 35 minutes of possession over the final three games of the season.

The weather in Baltimore could lend to a shortened game plan for both teams Saturday night. The forecast is calling for a 79 percent chance of rain with wind gusts getting up to 20 mph. That could make longer passes a tougher task for Jackson and Tannehill, forcing both teams to stay conservative for most of the game.

PREDICTION: Under 47

 

SPREAD BET

As mentioned in our first-half prediction, the Titans will be on the road for a third straight week when they step on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. This franchise has been fighting for its postseason life since a Week 10 win over Kansas City and playing with panic in the final three games of the schedule.

The win over New England was huge for Tennessee, especially with many former Pats staffers and players involved in the victory. While a letdown in the postseason is rare, the Titans could be ripe for a big one after knocking off the NFL’s resident boogeyman and breathing easy for the first time in a month.

There is some worry that the Ravens’ hiatus could cool their momentum (basically two weeks, given many starters rested or were limited in Week 17). However, Baltimore is cautious coming into this playoff opener – especially after what happened to it in last year’s postseason debut. The Ravens were undone by the L.A. Chargers in the Wild Card Round, losing 23-17 as 3-point home chalk.

Jackson was slow out of the gates in that game, going 2 for 8 passing for only 17 yards through the air in the first half, and knows the importance of a quick start against the Titans this time around. Baltimore’s best defense against Henry is putting the Titans behind on the scoreboard and forcing Tennessee to turn to the passing game. 

The Ravens own the fourth-best pass defense, according to FootballOutsiders DVOA, and have limited opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 77.5 on the season. Baltimore will get up, put the focus on stopping Tannehill and let the bad weather work for them in the second half.

PREDICTION: Baltimore -9

 

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