The Tennessee Titans are not a media darling. They do not play in a big ,and despite what Chris Johnson wants you to believe, the franchise lacks a superstar. The team also has a rough schedule. How rough? Ask Vegas.
On Wednesday, Cantor Gaming sports books unveiled NFL spreads through Week 16 of the season.
When it comes to betting lines, the home team usually gets a three-point bump. Remember that. Here are the lines with commentary:
Week 1, New England Patriots (+6.5): The defending AFC champs are, in essence, 10-point favorites in the Titans' home opener. Jerry Gray's new defense is going to get a big early test with Tom Brady coming to town. For the Titans to be within one score in the fourth quarter with a shot to win would be a major accomplishment. The line's legit.
Week 2, at San Diego Chargers (+6): As much as the Chargers have struggled in the Norv Turner Era, they don't struggle when the Titans are on the schedule. The Chargers have eight straight wins over Tennessee. West Coast trips have been a struggle. This line's on the money.
Week 3, Detroit Lions (+1): Offseason issues aside, the Lions are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and a fierce defensive line. Much like in last year's Saints game, it's going to be tough to get in an offensive showdown with an elite scoring team. It's only consistency that's keeping the Lions from being bigger favorites in this game.
Week 4, at Houston Texans (+7.5): Proof that the Titans are at least a half-step behind the Texans came in last year's season finale. With the Titans needing a win for a playoff spot and the Texans resting starters, the game came down to a botched two-point try by the Texans. If Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are healthy, it's going to be very hard for the Titans to keep up.
Week 5, at Minnesota Vikings (pick ‘em, aka even): The home team gets three, so in this case the Titans are finally considered to be the better team. The Vikings are one of the biggest rebuilding projects in the league, and the health of Adrian Peterson will be huge. The Titans' pass-blocking will be tested for sure. An 0-4 start is possible for the Titans, and in that case, the Vikings probably will end up the favorite.
Week 6, Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5): The Titans didn't have a prime-time game last year, so this one's going to be big with the crowd. A huge Steeler contingent will be in town as well. The last Titan win over Pittsburgh came in 2008. It's another litmus test game with the tough 3-4 defense and the pass-happy offense coming to LP Field.
Week 7, at Buffalo Bills (+3.5): The Bills are slight favorites even though they have worse Super Bowl odds than the Titans. The is one of the few lines that makes me shake my head a bit. I do think that the Bills are improved, with a defensive line that rivals the Lions'. Ryan Fitzpatrick usually starts hot but can cool off quickly. The Titans have won their last two road games in Buffalo, but this is a much tougher team.
Week 8, Indianapolis Colts (-6): For the first time, the Titans are clear favorites. The Colts are the ultimate rebuilding project with a new starting QB, an unfamiliar defensive scheme and an overhauled coaching staff. The result should be similar to last year's 27-10 home win.
Week 9, Chicago Bears (+1): The last time the Bears traveled to Nashville, the game ended on an overtime safety, a first in NFL history. The Bears aren't getting a ton of press, but they always have a tough defense, and Jay Cutler has Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery; the secondary will be tested. Note that the Bears and Lions are considered even based on the line.
Week 10, at Miami Dolphins (+3.5): Even though the Dolphins picked up Ryan Tannehill in the draft, they're still a few years away from contention. Two years ago, the Fins beat the Titans even though they were down to their third-string quarterback and even played the Wildcat for a good portion of the game. The Titans are the better team, but this is a road game and Miami is never an easy place to play.
Week 11: bye
Week 12, at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): Sure, the Jags aren't one of the better teams in the league. They still beat the Titans 16-14 in last year's opener and dominated on the ground. Shutting down MJD is the key.
Week 13, Houston Texans (+3): The Texans lay down an extra point-and-a-half in the rematch in Nashville. It's interesting to see how the point-spreads change in rematches. This is the first 2011 playoff team the Titans will face since Week 6.
Week 14, at Indianapolis Colts (pick ‘em): Vegas may not be sure about the young Colts, but they're consistent on this line. In both cases the Titans are better by a field goal. Since they have been division rivals, the Titans have never swept the Colts.
Week 15, New York Jets (pick ‘em): Will it be Tebow time on Monday night? The Jets were 8-8 last year after two straight trips to the AFC Championship and their big offseason move was to pick up Tebow. The Kenny Britt versus Darrelle Revis matchup will be the one to watch.
Week 16, at Green Bay (+11): This is similar to the Patriots game. The offense is spectacular and only causing a few turnovers will slow it down. The defense isn't as tough. Going to Lambeau in December means snow, and that will be pretty to watch in HD. The game may not be so pretty.
Week 17, Jacksonville Jaguars (no line): There's no line here, so I will project the Titans by seven. It's a division rivalry and the Jaguars will not be a pushover. A win should get the Titans to double-digit wins and a playoff spot.
The lines, to use a cliché, are on the money for the most part. It's hard to project too far in the future since the first month of the schedule is so tough. What Vegas says about the 2012 season is another indicator that the season's less than 100 days from starting. That's an under that all football fans can agree on.