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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 5: Chiefs vs Titans

Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans: KC -2.5 (Bet365)

Market Watch

A week ago, the Titans were -1 point favorites in the look-ahead line. Then Jake Locker got hurt, and the line opened up at -2.5 in favor of the Chiefs. This is where the line is now, but some shops are hanging -3's up at EVEN money.

85% of the bets are on KC.

When the Titans have the ball

When this line was put on the board on Sunday night/Monday morning, sharp money actually came in on the Titans. Someone smarter than me needs to explain that logic to me. If I thought the Chiefs were being overvalued here, I would just go ahead and take a pass at best.

To begin with, let's consider some of the luck that the Titans have had this year. They've recovered three of their own fumbles on offense, and all four of opponents fumbles on defense. So let's not get too carried away with Tennessee's start to the season.

Looking at their offense, it does appear like they've made strides on the offensive line. They should have, given how much they invested in it over the offseason. Still, Chris Johnson isn't tearing up the league.

Another bright spot is their depth at wide receiver. Nate Washington, Justin Hunter, and Damian Williams are all contributing in the passing game.

But enough with the pleasantries. When it comes to this matchup, there is no doubt that the advantage goes to the Chiefs. Granted, KC have played some questionable teams so far, but their unit certainly passes the eye-ball test. They've allowed a league low 25% of opponent red zone possessions. That kind of statistic wins ball games.

It also says a lot for how much this defense has accomplished with a gimpy Brandon Flowers. With him in and out of the lineup, and not playing at 100%, they've still managed to shut offenses down week in and week out.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe the playmakers on this side of the ball.

When the Chiefs have the ball

My main bit of worry for this pick comes with the feet of Jamaal Charles. I knew he was battling some problems, but they've kept him entirely out of practice this week. That's concerning. Word out of KC is that he is expected to play, but he's a huge key to this offense (obviously).

The counter-balance is the progression of Alex Smith though. Last week he completed 8 of 12 passes beyond 10 yards for 161 yards and two touchdowns. That is a far cry from what he was doing earlier in the year. It's also encouraging that he's completing big plays in crucial situations. When they've needed him to make a play to get away from their own goal-line, or to complete a third and long, he's come through in multiple weeks.

Up front, Eric Fisher has sustained a concussion, but he was having a rough season anyways. What's more important is the lack of push the interior line has gotten in the run game. This week they go up against a stout interior defensive line. Karl Klug and Jurrell Casey combined for two sacks, three quarterback hits, and four hurries against the Jets. I expect KC to have a lot of runs aimed on the perimeter, and some rollouts for Alex Smith in the passing game.

Finally, Andy Reid would be wise to stay away from Alterraun Verner on the outside. He's PFF's highest rated cornerback through four weeks. He's been targeted 23 times, and only allowed 8 completions. Four times he came up with the interception, and four other times he broke up the pass.

Bottom Line

Is this the game KC finally lose?  A lot of that will depend on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sometimes he looks like a legit starting NFL quarterback. The reality is he's a better-than-average-back-up.  As much as Tennessee has improved this year, they are going to have a really tough time against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For the Chiefs offense, it's a case of what you see is what you get. Smith finally had a couple of interceptions last week, but only one of them was his fault. What's more impressive was his success throwing beyond 10 yards. He's still young in this offense, so things should open up a bit more as he gets more comfortable.  The Titans defense is young and without any household names, but they are improving.

This should be a hard-fought game, and points won't come easy. I've bet on the Chiefs every week of the season and I'll continue to do so until I think the value is gone. In this game, they matchup well on both sides of the ball, so I don't mind laying under a field goal.

NFL Pick: KC -2.5.

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