Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Streaming on Amazon Prime, Pittsburgh, PA
Tennessee +130 over Pittsburgh
8:15 PM EST. A gritty battle between two blue-collar teams is on tap for TNF. Pittsburgh will be cold, breezy, and no doubt hard-hits will be frequent. Two coaches who want their teams predicated by the run-game and defense, Mike Tomlin and Mike Vrabel have only met twice since Vrabel became the Titans' head-man in 2018. One was a high-scoring game when the Steelers still had Ben Roethlisberger in 2020 and they started 11-0. The last contest, more indicative of who these teams are now, ended in a 32-point total in 2021. While this figures to be a low-scoring battle, a subterannean 36.5-point total indicates as much, there's more value betting on a different angle.
The spread on this game is a little baffling. In an NFL market often dictated by the happenings of last weekend, oddsmakers haven't budged on this line. In Week 8, Pittsburgh tripped over themselves and allowed the Jaguars to dictate the course of play last Sunday at home. The black and yellow allowed nearly 400 yards to Trevor Lawrence and the visiting Jags. They sacked the surging QB three times and forced an interception, but it was far from enough. Another anemic performance by the Steelers' offense, which only produced 70 yards on the ground and 191 yards through the air, just wasn't enough. Even worse, starting QB Kenny Pickett left the game due to a rib injury. He's slated to start and play through the pain tonight, but that's not exactly an ideal situation for a struggling Pitt-offense. Has Matt Canada been fired yet? No? Just checking.
Meanwhile, Vrabel and his Tennessee Titans won again in Week 8, again as an underdog, but it was hardly surprising considering their opponent (ATL) and the way Vrabe tends to pull these wins out of his ass. Although this time it was less magic, and more about one very specific player.
First-year QB Will Levis took the football world by storm last weekend. Proving he's been working on his craft while serving in a backup role and immediately showing moxie by confidently lofting deep balls downfield, the 6'4" rookie threw 19-29 for 238 yards (8.2 yards per pass) and four touchdowns in his debut. Only Frank Tarkenton and, ahem, Marcus Mariota, have thrown as many TDs in their first outing. In any case, it was a sign of what could be around the corner for the new era of Tennessee football. Ryan Tannehill, their starter for the last 4+ seasons, is 35 years old and frequently injured. The Titans needed to turn the page. Week 8 might've been the first chapter, but it won't be easy sledding for Levis and the Titans tonight.
DeAndre Hopkins, who finally had a game reminiscent of the top-tier WR we all knew in his days with the Texans, had 3 touchdown catches for 128 yards receiving last Sunday with Levis under center. Hopkins was considered questionable but at the time of writing this, he's slated to play. That's a big boost for the Titans' offense, especially considering that Pittsburgh lost safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, one of their best defensive players, to injury in Week 8.
The narrative backing up this spread is that Pittsburgh is at home for a second straight week and no matter how good Levis looked last Sunday, he's still a green thrower in only his second start going up against one of the most feared pass-rushers in football. Oddsmakers' and Pittsburgh supporters are expecting a big "TJ Watt game." It could very well happen, but why would we put our money on one of the NFL's worst offenses, against an underrated and disciplined defense, and one that's armed with a QB that will be grabbing his ribcage in pain all night? We wouldn't. This is another Thursday night game where we won't have an official play, but the value is on Tennessee and a rookie QB that, if nothing else, doesn't know enough to know that he "shouldn't" play well tonight. Sometimes that brand of naive confidence is all you need to win in this league.
Tennessee +130 (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)