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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NFL Predictions 2012 Week 7: Titans vs Bills

Tennessee Titans vs Buffalo Bills: BUF -3 (Pinnacle)


Back in the offseason, and again in the look-ahead line, Vegas pegged the Bills as 3.5 point favorites in this matchup.  I'm not entirely sure what people saw in Week 6 to think this game should be moved to three, but that's what it re-opened at on Sunday night.  Some early action has come in on Buffalo and right now you have to pay a bit extra juice to lay the field goal. At the same time, that three won't be available if more money continues to pour on the home team.

Optimism in Tennessee?

If I'm making an argument for the Titans, I point to the inspired upset over the Steelers, the extra time to prepare, and the general underachieving of the Bills. 

Yet, a closer look at the Titans win last Thursday reveals a deceiving picture.  A variety of things fell their way and the Steelers were severely banged up.  We've seen a fair share of underdogs rise up in critical situations to defy the odds this year, and Tennessee was no exception.

The Titans will not have any sort of "situational advantage" in their tilt with the Bills.

Lesser of Two Evils

There's simply no way to spin this - the Bills defense has been atrocious this year.  I can't possibly sit here and make a logical case for them to stop the Titans.  They haven't been able to get off the field on third down, they can't keep people out of the end zone, and they rarely win the turnover battle.

The good news is they get to face an equally inept offense. Matt Hasselbeck is serviceable and far less erratic than Jake Locker, but by no means is he about to set the league on fire and force defenses to game-plan for him, either.  He does have Kenny Britt back, so that helps.  He also has the benefit of playing behind a better-than-average offensive line. Even Chris Johnson came close to the 100 yard mark last week.

However, the stark reality here is that the Titans just don't strike fear into anybody.  The Bills might be underachieving on defense, but they still have the personnel to put up a competitive fight against average offenses.

Offense vs Defense: Advantage Bills

I'll be the first to say I'm not a fan of Ryan Fitzpatrick.  It's safe to say that he is just not going to reach the expectations his contract placed on him.  Buffalo's turnover differential isn't as bad as the Titans, but they do have more interceptions than fumbles at this point.  Some of that can be attributed to tough competition and coming from behind, but a fair share of that is on Fitzpatrick as well.

The reason I like the Bills in this spot is because of what we've seen unfold all year.  The Titans took a big risk in letting Cortland Finnegan go, and it's been their Archilles heel all season.  Even in the win last week, they allowed Big Ben to put up monster numbers in the air.

The Titans have also been susceptible on the ground because they don't have any defensive standouts anywhere in their starting roster.  With a healthier C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the backfield, Fitzpatrick should be able to play within his skill-set.  They are also in little danger of playing from a massive deficit. 

Both of these teams have been bad this year, but Buffalo have made some respectable gains with their offense.  They rank near the middle of the road in third down conversions and above-average in red zone efficiency.  The running game is the key advantage, and it should open enough opportunities for Scott Chandler and Johnson in the air. 

Bottom Line

As poor as Buffalo has been this year, I'm not about to rank them even with Tennessee at this point.  They very easily could have rolled over in Arizona last week, but they stepped up and proved they still have a competitive backbone.  Of course the same could be argued for the Titans, but let's see how they do when they aren't on national TV in a favorable scheduling spot. 

NFL Pick: BUF -3.

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