New York Jets (6-7 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (4-9 SU, 4-9 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Monday, December 17th, 2012, 8:30 p.m. EST
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: ESPN/DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NYJ +1/TEN -1
Over/Under Total: 41.5
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Left for dead and with a whole tabloids-worth of drama still surrounding them, the New York Jets are only a game out of the AFC Wild Card chase, so it should make for some interesting television to start the work week when the Jets travel to LP Field in Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football on ESPN.
With a mini two-game win streak and three wins in their last four games, the Jets have scratched and clawed their way back into the playoff race on determination alone. It certainly helps that two of those three wins have come against the laughingstocks of the NFL these days (Arizona and Jacksonville), but this isn’t the BCS and style points and scoring margin don’t matter in the NFL.
The Jets slipped past the Jaguars last week, 17-10, but it wasn’t very convincing. Quarterback Mark Sanchez didn’t throw any interceptions, but his 12-for-19 and 111 yards wasn’t awe inspiring either. Sanchez’s biggest benefit was the fact the Jets decided they were a run-first team, running 42 times for 166 yards (3.9 per). But even still, the Jets didn’t seal the win until they intercepted Jags QB Chad Henne deep in their own territory with 15 seconds left on the clock.
Tennessee is currently stuck in a three game losing streak, including a hard-fought but tough loss on the road in Indianapolis last weekend, 27-23. It marked the second time the Titans lost a tough one to rookie Andrew Luck and the Colts (lost 19-13 in OT in week 9), with the first loss being the one that started their 1-5 slide and dropped them into the race for a high draft pick instead of an AFC playoff spot.
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With little left to play for but pride, and maybe head coach Mike Munchak’s job, the Titans can spoil the Jets chances and send them packing with a win at home in primetime if they can just find a way to protect the ball on Monday Night Football.
The game opened with the Titans as 1-point favorites at home and despite some decent public money on both sides of the number, the Titans have held as favorites and have even gone up to minus -1.5 or -2 point favorites at most sportsbooks. The number is climbing because a lot of sharp money is coming in on the Jets, causing bookmakers to move the line up even though most of the average weekend gamblers are fading the Jets thinking their ship has already sailed this season.
The over/under total opened at 42 and can still be found at that number at a few books, but a majority of offshore sportsbooks and even most of the properties in Las Vegas have dropped the game the hook to 41.5 to take the push out of play on Monday.
As fans we should be in for a barnburner this week on Monday Night (cue sarcasm). Seriously though, with two struggling offenses and two quarterbacks that can’t seem to hold onto the football (Sanchez 15 INT/6 FumL; Jake Locker 9 INT/5 FumL), I wouldn’t expect either team to throw the ball anymore than they possibly have to on Monday.
All of this means it will come down to running the football and defense, and in both instances the Jets hold the advantage.
The Jets used this same blueprint last week at Jacksonville, grinding out 42 runs using both Shonn Greene (20 carries-77 yards, TD) and Bilal Powell (19 carries-78 yards, TD) in equal doses to keep them fresh and keep the Jets attack ahead of the sticks as much as possible. With the Titans run defense ranked 24th allowing 127 yards a game, you can expect the Jets to keep things simple and keep plugging away even if the Titans creep an eight and ninth man in the box begging Sanchez to throw it.
Tennessee still has Chris Johnson as their main weapon in the running game, but CJ2K is nowhere near the back he was years ago and he’s only had four 100-yard rushing games this season. With Javon Ringer hurt for most of the season, the Titans have not found anyone to complement Johnson and as a result they often struggle to stay out of third-and-long situations and only average 105 yards a game (23rd). It doesn’t help that the Titans have also been playing from behind for most of the season, putting extra pressure on Locker. But if there is a silver lining it’s the fact that the Jets have been terrible against the run this year (136 ypg - 29th), giving Johnson and interim offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (Chris Palmer was fired in late November) reason to keep plugging away even if it’s tough sledding early on in the game.
Also working in the Jets favor is the fact that they are riding a six-game covering streak against the Titans dating back to the 1998 season. Five of those games ended in straight up victories too, so even though the Jets look like a cluster-fudge on offense, there are some strong betting trends telling you to ignore your gut and go with the Jets on Monday. The Jets are also 4-0 ATS in Tennessee over the years, the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six head-to-heads, and the road team is 5-2 ATS as well.
But let it be known that Tennessee does seem to enjoy the big stage with the Monday Night spotlight, going 4-1 ATS in their last five appearances on Monday Night Football.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Bad teams find ways to lose. I’m referring to the Jets. I’m betting the Titans!
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