I have a Best Bet on tonight's NFL game between the Titans and Colts. I'll have the rest of my NFL analysis for this weekend available on Friday afternoon at drbobsports.com.
***TENNESSEE (+3 ½) 21 Indianapolis 17
Apparently losing 5 consecutive games straight up and against the spread is enough to turn the public against a team. I can certainly understand not wanting to bet a team like the Titans who are on a 5 game slide, but it turns out that it is exactly the time that you want to bet on them. Teams that have lost 5 or more consecutive games to the spread and are coming off a straight up loss are actually 22-1 ATS since November of 2006, including 4-0 ATS this season. That list includes Dallas beating the Giants as a 13 ½ point underdog right when everyone had written off the Cowboys. It also includes my Best Bet on Minnesota two weeks ago when the won at Washington and my Best Bet win on Cincy at the Colts when the Bengals covered despite the bad luck of being -5 in turnovers (the other winner this year was Houston +7 at the Jets 3 weeks ago). It's pretty clear that nobody wants any part of the Titans given that they are a 3 ½ point underdog when they should be favored in this game.
The Colts aren't exactly playing well either, having lost 3 straight games heading into tonight, but people seem to think that Peyton Manning can bounce-back. He didn't bounce back after throwing 3 interceptions against the Patriots, as he threw 4 picks in a loss to San Diego. Manning didn't bounce back after that game, as he threw 4 more interceptions in a loss to the Cowboys last week. I don't expect Manning to keep throwing multiple interceptions, but my math model favors the Titans by 4 ½ points even if he goes back to his normal 2.5% interception rate. The Colts' offense simply isn't very good without RB Joseph Addai and without WR Austin Collie, who accumulated 562 yards on just 61 passes thrown to him this season. Collie has played just once in the last 6 games (and Manning averaged 7.6 yards per pass play in that game against New England) and Manning has averaged only 5.8 yards per pass play in 5 games without Collie despite facing teams that would combine to allow 6.7 yppp to an average quarterback. I actually don't think he'll continue to be that bad without Collie, as based on the stats of the receivers taking Collie's place Manning should be 0.3 yppp worse than his season average, which would put him at 0.3 yppp worse than average (for the season he's averaged 6.6 yppp against teams that would allow 6.6 yppp to an average QB). The rush attack has averaged just 3.3 ypr in 6 games without Addai (against teams that would allow 4.3 ypr) and I rate the Colts' attack at 0.2 yards per play worse than average without Addai and Collie tonight. Tennessee is still playing at a decent level defensively and they are 0.4 yppl better than average for the season (5.2 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average team), so the Titans have a big advantage of the Colts' offense.
The problem with the Titans lately has been an offense that has scored 17 points or fewer in 4 consecutive games. However, home underdogs that have scored 17 points or fewer in 4 or more consecutive games are actually a 60% plays since 1980, including 59-29 ATS if they're also coming off consecutive spread losses. It will also help getting big play receiver Kenny Britt back, as Britt was averaging an incredible 11.4 yards per pass thrown to him (434 yards on 38 pass attempts) before getting hurt early in week 9. Having Britt back should allow the Titans to run the ball better, and running on a Colts' defense that has given up 5.0 ypr this season shouldn't be a problem as I expect Chris Johnson to have a big night. The Titans certainly aren't as good with Kerry Collins at quarterback as they were when Vince Young was under center, and I rate the Titans' attack at 0.4 yppl worse than average with Collins (I didn't adjust for Britt being back since his playing time may be limited). The Colts' defense is 0.2 yppl better than average because they do defend the pass well, but the Titans match up well since they don't figure to throw too often since they should be able to run the ball well.
Overall, my math model projects 5.1 yppl for Tennessee and 4.5 yppl for the Colts in this game, but Indianapolis is projected to run 19 more plays than the Titans will and the total yards projection does favor Indy 331 yards to 277 yards. However, Tennessee has an advantage in projected turnovers and a huge edge in special teams and my math still favors Tennessee by 4 ½ points in this game. Even using a compensated points model would favor the Titans. The Colts have out-scored their opponents by an average of 2.2 points while playing a schedule that is 0.5 points tougher than average, so they've been +2.7 points. The Titans have out-scored their opponents by 2.3 points per game while playing a schedule that is 0.3 points tougher than average, so they've been +2.6 points. The adjustments for current personnel (Addai and Collie out for the Colts, Collins at QB for Tennessee) favor Indy by just 0.2 points and home field advantage is 2.9 points this time of year, so I would get Tennessee by 2 ½ points using a compensated points model. The only reason for the Colts being favored is because Tennessee has been in such a negative slide lately, but the trends suggest that is not likely to continue and I'll certainly take advantage of the line value. I'll take Tennessee in a 3-Star Best Bet at +3 ½ points or more and for 2-Stars at +3 points.
I also like the Under in this game, as both teams are worse than average offensively with their current personnel and both defenses are better than average. My math model projects just 39 total points and an adjusted compensated points model also comes up with 39 total points. I'll consider the Under (45 points) a Strong Opinion.
I will have free analysis on most NFL games this weekend in the Free Analysis section of my website.