Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears
Time: NOON (CT), CBS
Spread: TEN -6
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The much-improved Tennessee Titans are 5-6 and sit in a tie for second place in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts, both teams trailing the 6-4 Houston Texans. A win over the Chicago Bears this week would go further towards helping solidify Tennessee’s chances at a division crown—or a Wild Card berth.
The Titans find itself 6-point favorites at Soldier Field as the struggling Chicago Bears host the game which will air at Noon (Central) on CBS. The over/under is set at 41.5 points according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.
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Tennessee has alternated wins and losses the last five weeks in going 2-3, with last week being a 17-24 loss to the division rival Colts. The Colts reeled off a pair of TDs in the first quarter to take a 14-0 edge from which the Titans could not recover. Marcus Mariota turned in another nice performance, throwing 25 of 38 for completion while amassing 290 passing yards and two TDs. He also rushed five times for another 29 yards as the Titans picked up 97 rushing yards on the game.
Mariota did incur five sacks for a total loss of 36 yards, a black mark on an otherwise strong performance.
Running back DeMarco Murray rushed 21 times for 70 yards, but averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and had no rushes for longer than eight yards in the game. Murray is dealing with a toe injury, but he is expected to play this week.
Wide Receiver Rishard Matthews had a big game as Mariota’s No. 1 target, catching 9 of 13 targeted passes for 122 yards. Tajae Sharpe and Murray both caught TD passes.
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Defensively, Tennessee got big games from Avery Williamson (9 tackles, 7 solo), Wesley Woodyard (6 tackles) and Derrick Morgan (1.5 sacks). Tennessee had two sacks in the game and three tackles for loss and Brice McCain came up with an interception, but it just was not enough as Andrew Luck had an efficient game spiked by two TDs and a 9.4 yards per attempt average.
Mariota out-played Luck in this one, but the foibles of the first quarter cost Tennessee an otherwise very winnable game, an a crucial one at that.
Mariota is having a great season after his injury-ruined rookie year a season ago. The No. 2 overall pick from Oregon has thrown for 2,772 yards and completed 64.2 percent of his passes while throwing 23 TDs and just eight interceptions. He has been sacked 18 times, but five of those came last week, as stated. He has been more than a minor improvement from the disaster that was Jake Locker (who wisely retired early after a completely ineffective and short NFL career).
Murray has also been a huge difference maker and reached 1,000 yards on the season last week. He has rushed for eight TDs and has 46 Titans’ first downs this season.
Mariota has been good when he’s stuck to the ground, too, with 264 yards on 45 carries (5.9 yards per) and a pair of rushing TDs on the season. While 24 yards per game is hardly shattering NFL records, the mobility from the QB-position is something new that Titans fans are happy to see. No. 2 back Derrick Henry has 252 yards and a TD on the season, but it has been largely Mariota and Murray behind Tennessee’s dramatic improvement this season.
The future is rather bright in Nashville for languishing Titans fans desperately craving a return to relevancy since the long-forgotten days of Chris Johnson and sustained competitiveness.
The Chicago Bears have had things go less well, to be kind. Chicago is 2-8 on the season and has dropped two straight after its second victory over the Minnesota Vikings three weeks ago. The Bears have been abysmal offensively, averaging just 15.7 points per game and ranking second-to-last in the NFL. Defensively, they have been marginal, ranking middle-of-the-pack at No. 18 and allowing 23.7 points per game.
But a poor offense and a mediocre defense is not going to result in a lot of victories and with upcoming games against San Francisco, Detroit, Green Bay, Washington, and Minnesota (to close the season), it is quite possible the Bears escape the 2016 season as just a three or four win team. That will net Chicago a high draft pick, and it may be time that Chicago moves on to rebuild with a young QB.
Brian Hoyer had four good weeks in a row, but only one of those resulted in victory and last week was yet another loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Hoyer has thrown for over 300 yards in the last four weeks, while completing 61 percent of his passes or better in each game. He has not thrown any interceptions, and he had two TDs in the Dallas, Detroit and Indianapolis contests, without throwing any picks.
It is hard to find fault with the eighth-year veteran from Michigan State, but Chicago fans seem to want to gear up towards something substantial, much in the mode its opponent Tennessee already has in going young with Mariota and Murray. While Hoyer may represent some sort of minor upgrade over Jay Cutler and his 3.7 percent interception ratio, he is still a 31-year old with a very definable and locked-in ceiling.
Cutler suffered a shoulder injury in Week 11 and is still not recovered enough to play in this week’s contest.
Adding to this is the fact that Hoyer had season-ending shoulder surgery. Expect fourth-year QB Matt Barkley of USC to get his first NFL start this week. As to what he may be capable of, it is tough to say. Barkley threw 30 of 49 in 2013 for the Philadelphia Eagles, but had three INTs with just four TD passes.
It would be tough to say Bears fans are expecting any sort of upgrade from him, especially given his 40 percent passing in limited attempts (15) this season.
Jordan Howard has been good in the backfield for Chicago this season, and the rookie from Indiana has 682 yards and a 5.2 yard per carry average this season with two TDs. He managed just 34 yards last week on 15 carries, but in the two weeks prior he rushed for over 100 in each game, and against the Colts he had 118 yards on just 16 carries, including a long-run of 57-yards.
Howard has been one of the few bright spots in a mostly disastrous season for the Bears, but expect Tennessee to rebound from its disappointing loss last week to the Colts with a ‘W’ as NFL oddsmakers are projecting in setting the line over a TD in favor of the Titans.