It’s a showdown of division leaders as this week’s edition of Thursday Night Football features a clash of the (6-3) Tennessee Titans, who are in first place in the AFC South, and the (7-2) Pittsburgh Steelers, who top the AFC North (8:25pm ET).
When the Titans opened their season with a loss at home against the Oakland Raiders, it seemed like this year was going to be more par for the course for Tennessee. Then two big wins came, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are tied atop the AFC South with Tennessee, and the (6-3) Seattle Seahawks. It was the first time in a long time for the Titans to pick up statement wins like that. Back-to-back losses followed, both on the road, but as the Titans returned home to take on the Indianapolis Colts, a winning streak followed.
Starting with the Colts, the Titans have won their last four games in a row, the last two of which have come against the Steelers’ divisional foes in the Baltimore Ravens and most recently, Cincinnati Bengals.
While third year quarterback Marcus Mariota has been having a solid year, Tennessee’s offense overall really isn’t anything to write home about. The Titans rank 23rd in the league in total yards and tied for 27th in passing yards. The team’s best weapon offensively is in its running game. The Titans are eighth in total rushing yards and rushing yards per game at 124.8.
Tennessee is led by the tandem of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, both of whom have over 400 yards rushing and three plus touchdowns on the year. Murray leads the team in both carries and total yards but Henry betters him slightly in average yards per carry with 4.4 to Murray’s four.
Defense isn’t exactly Tennessee’s forte either as the team ranks just 16th in total yards allowed and 18th in passing yards allowed. Again, it’s the run which is really this team’s bread and butter as the Titans rank sixth in the league and third among AFC teams, in their rush defense, allowing just 827 total yards across the season. That’s an average of just under 92 yards per game.
Pittsburgh’s Year in Review
Opening the year on the road against the Cleveland Browns was more a tune-up than any sort of real challenge for last year’s AFC North champions, but they handled it nevertheless. Pittsburgh did the same the following week as they opened up Heinz Field for the season, with a 26-9 victory over the (7-2) Minnesota Vikings. The Steelers followed these wins up with losses in two of their next three, including a 30-9 defeat by the same Jaguars that Tennessee defeated earlier in the year.
This led to Pittsburgh, just like Tennessee, going on a four-game winning streak of their own. The first such victory was the best as it came against the (6-3) Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead, a notoriously tough place for opposing teams to play. At the time, Kansas City was the NFL’s last unbeaten team. It was definitely a big victory for the Steelers, who had been struggling with their own identity for the past several weeks. The team managed to ride momentum from this win into a trio of other victories against the Bengals, Detroit Lions and Colts.
The Steelers offense, ranked 12th in total yards, 10th in passing yards and tied for 20th in rushing yards, has gotten a bit of a bad and unfair assessment on the year. That’s because the team is still ranked top-10 in the passing game despite clearly not operating at its best. That’s not exactly the most welcome news to an opponent as this is still a dynamite and explosive offense which really could break out at any time.
Defensively however, Pittsburgh has brought back a version of the famed steel curtain defense which was known for how lethal it was at stopping opponents at every turn. This year’s group is first in the league in fewest total yards allowed, second in passing yards allowed and 11th in rushing yards allowed. They are also second in the league in total points allowed, holding opponents to just over 16 per game.
Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed just eight touchdown passes through the air over nine games this year as well, which is third in the league. That being said, it’s probably going to be a bit of a long night for Mariota against this tough defensive unit.
Some Stats To Ponder Before Placing Your Bets
- The Steelers are 16-3 SU in their last 19 games and 6-1 in their last seven at Heinz Field.
- The Titans are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games.
- The total has gone under in eight of the last nine Steeler contests.
Our Preview’s Tennessee Titans vs Pittsburgh Steelers Picks & Betting Predictions
This is a game that pits two teams against each other with similar records and matching winning streaks but that really only tells part of the story. The Titans have been good and have some strong wins this year but they barely got by the winless Browns, needing overtime to do so and have won their last two by a combined seven points. That’s not to say the Steelers have been that much better recently, winning their last two by a combined eight points.
But overall on the year, Pittsburgh has been the more consistent and more threatening team, especially at home. So while the Titans have six wins and are in control of their own destiny in their division, it is the Steelers which are well on their way to another strong finish and another divisional crown. So with this preview now turning its attention to the betting lines available from the highest rated USA sportsbooks, these are our predictions and advised picks for this NFL game:
- Take Pittsburgh to cover the seven points they are favored in what should still be a pretty competitive Thursday night game. That’s the Steelers -7pts @ -110 with Bovada or BetOnline.
- As for the total, the under would seem like the safe bet given the trend but 44 is a bit of a low total. With how the Steelers have been scoring, this should easily be topped. Go over 44pts @ best odds of -106 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.