It’s another Thursday, which means Week 9 of the NFL season kicks off tonight as the Tennessee Titans face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Titans are coming off a their first win since they railroaded the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week 4, their defense led the way that day but it was a surprising performance from their rookie quarterback Will Levis that inspired them to a 28-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan Tannehill was ruled out of the Week 8 matchup and instead of handing his second year backup Malik Willis the keys to the offense, Mike Vrabel instead entrusted the rookie. Levis had his critics coming out of Kentucky and whilst one game isn’t enough to silence them, they certainly have been quieter. Then again, maybe it was just those delightful throwback Houston Oilers jerseys.
Mike Vrabel has been about two things over his five seasons as Head Coach; defense and running the ball. However his prize running back, Derrick Henry, has been somewhat subdued compared to his usual stat lines and maybe his 2500 career carries have finally caught up to him. The Titan’s third round rookie Tyjae Spears has impressed with his touches and maybe it is a sign the torch is being passed down.
The Titans defense have been at their normal rugged best, consistently making teams earn every yard. In fact, whenever their struggling offense has scored 28 points they have won. So the big question is can they reach that magic number and improve to .500 to stay in the AFC playoff hunt?
Kenny Pickett and his offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, have been the subject of roughly 60% of my twitter timeline since the middle of last season. Their shockingly poor output sees them bottom in almost every category know to mankind and it is somewhat of a mystery how Mike Tomlin still has faith in this duo. Despite one side of the ball just flat out not working the Steelers are still 4-3 and very much in the playoff picture even though they are in what is looking like the toughest division in the league.
This is all because of a defense that is playing better than the raw statistics show, they allow the third most yards per game however they seem to always keep their teams in the game with a tough redzone defense and an ability to make key plays at the perfect moment. T.J. Watt has been at his elite best and not even missing a key piece in safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, seems to have derailed them. Rookie Joey Porter Jr. has earnt his first start of the season and their defense also gets Cameron Heyward back from injury for the first time this season, this could be a gamechanger to fix their poor ability to stop the run.
DraftKings Sportsbook has a Over/Under of 37.0 on this game. I would be surprised if this is surpassed as both defenses are solid and I think Will Levis could encounter his ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment early especially if Deandre Hopkins isn’t able to go after picking up a toe injury earlier this week. This is going to be brawl from the first whistle to the last and I’d be surprised if either team win going away. Even with an uninspired offense I am backing the Steelers to win this one but I am convinced enough in the low total that I’ll cover the Titans spread on offer as it will be a narrow margin either way the cookie crumbles and of course, I’ll go for the under. This is the Iowa vs Northwestern of the NFL ladies and gentleman, no total is low enough!
Injuries to consider
Mike Brown and Hassan Haskins are on IR, Caleb Farley is on PUP, whereas Ryan Tannehill, Roger McCreary, Chris Hubbard have all been declared out. DeAndre Hopkins is questionable.
Anthony McFarland Jr., Pat Freiermuth, Cory Trice Jr., are all on IR, Minkah Fitzpatrick is out and Levi Wallace is questionable to play.
What do you think, BFTB? Any of you placing bets tonight?