The Tennessee Titans spent more than two weeks on the sidelines due to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests. But when they finally took the field again on Tuesday, the Titans showed little evidence they were harmed by the layoff.
Despite limited practice and still being short-handed with several players sidelined from positive tests, the Titans were close to flawless while delivering a 42-16 drubbing of the favored Buffalo Bills.
The Bills weren’t the only ones caught off guard Tuesday night. Sports bettors likewise by and large failed to anticipate the Titans’ successful return to action.
Stifling defense, efficient offense leads to Titans Week 5 victory
Both teams entered the game undefeated. Even though the game was in Nashville, most sportsbooks made the 4-0 Bills a 3.5-point favorite over the 3-0 Titans.
The Titans defense managed to pressure red-hot Bills quarterback Josh Allen all night. Allen entered the game with 12 touchdown passes and just one interception. But Tennessee cornerback Malcolm Butler managed to pick Allen off twice, with both turnovers leading to touchdowns.
Meanwhile, on offense, Tennessee could do no wrong. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw three TDs and ran for another, and running back Derrick Henry ran for another two TDs.
In fact, the Titans managed a perfect seven-for-seven, scoring a touchdown on each trip to the red zone. According to NFL Research, it was the first time since 2007 a team scored a touchdown on every red zone possession in a game (minimum of 6) while also having zero turnovers and zero sacks.
New England’s opponent in that 2007 game was also the Buffalo Bills. Another coincidence — current Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel played linebacker for those 2007 Patriots.
Majority of bets, handle on the favored Bills
Most sportsbooks started Buffalo as a 3-point favorite. The line eventually settled at Buffalo -3.5 after the majority of bettors chose to give up the points and put their money on the Bills.
Doubts about the impact of schedule changes, missing players, and rust from not having played a game since Sept. 27 no doubt factored into bettors’ lack of faith in the Titans.
At DraftKings, 79% of bettors took Buffalo against the point spread. A total of 75% of the money wagered (the handle) was on the Bills.
The moneyline went similarly, with 67% of the bets on Buffalo -177 and just 33% on Tennessee +155.
Bettors wagered more money on Buffalo as well. A total of 74% of the handle from moneyline bets went toward the Bills.
The story was similar at BetMGM. There, Buffalo -3.5 drew about 62% of bets and 65% of the handle.
Titans one of many NFL teams affected by COVID-related schedule shifts
Originally set for last Sunday, the NFL rescheduled the Bills-Titans game for Tuesday following the several positive COVID-19 tests within the Titans’ organization.
It was the first Tuesday NFL game since 2010, when a blizzard postponed a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Before that, one has to go back to the 1940s to find a Tuesday night NFL game.
In fact, several games have already had to be moved this year, including one scheduled for last night between Buffalo and the Kansas City Chiefs (now set for Monday, Oct. 19).
No less than 10 different NFL teams have had schedules affected so far this season by COVID-19. Several teams have now had players test positive for the coronavirus, forcing some team facilities to shut down.
Tennessee back in action Sunday versus Texans
The Titans will have a quick turnaround with another home game this Sunday at Nissan Stadium. They will host their rival, the struggling Houston Texans, who have started 1-4 and have already fired head coach Bill O’Brien.
After taking over as interim head coach last week, Romeo Crennel guided the Texans to their first victory of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, the Titans’ strong showing on Tuesday and the Texans’ woes haven’t translated into a big spread in Tennessee’s favor.
At DraftKings, the Titans opened as a 3.5-point favorite. As of this morning, the line has moved Houston’s way with the current spread at Titans -3.
We’ll see whether bettors will once again be foiled by a strong Tennessee showing.