And. We. Are. Back.
Another season is finally here, and boy did it have a wild start. Motor City Dan Campbell and his new-look Lions stunned the football world with a gutsy 21-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Thursday night.
Now it’s time to shift our attention to what matters to you most: Tennessee Titans Football. The Titans have not won a regular season football game since November 17th, 2022. That’s a good long while, and the Titans will look to get back on the horse with a revamped team tomorrow against the New Orleans Saints. For our full preview of the game, check out The Hot Read Podcast!
This season we are bringing back the Titans Ten… Sort of. No, my friends it is not in podcast form any longer. This new weekly article will be breaking down the 10 stats that most define the Titans matchup that week. Whether it’s for historical perspective, betting on the game, or understanding what’s on the line that week, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know before kickoff!
1. Pass-Happy Tannehill
Since Ryan Tannehill became the Titans’ starting quarterback, he’s led his team out of the tunnel on three opening weekends. In these games, he’s averaged 37 pass attempts for 242.3 yards per game and 1.6 TDs. He’s only thrown 1 INT in his last 3 openers.
Tannehill hasn’t been lights-out, but has certainly been serviceable in these games despite going 1-2 (Thanks Randy). If Tim Kelly means business, we can expect to see that same high pass attempt metric against a secondary led by Marshon Lattimore coming off an injury-riddled 2022 season.
2. Hopkins’ Debut
The biggest Titans news this offseason was undoubtedly the signing of DeAndre Hopkins, which transformed their bottom-of-the-league receiving core into a league-average group with some big playmaking ability. Hopkins will make his debut with the Titans tomorrow and has had serious success against the team in gold and black.
In three games since 2015, Deandre Hopkins has averaged 8.6 receptions for 83.3 yards against the Saints. Titans fans also shouldn’t be concerned about the matchup against Marshon Lattimore in particular, as Hopkins has gone for 214 yards in his two latest outings against New Orleans. Apropos of nothing, Hopkins’ receiving yards prop in this game is set around 58 depending on your sportsbook…
3. DHopping Into The End Zone
Deandre Hopkins has also found massive success in the Red Zone on opening weekend. In his last 9 Week 1 starts, Hopkins has scored 9 times, including a 2TD game against the Saints in 2019.
With how efficient the Titans were in the red zone last season, I would expect to see Hopkins targeted heavily inside the 20-yard line. He currently has the 5th-best odds to score a Touchdown on Sunday at +185, making for a tasty prop selection.
4. Henry’s Sluggish Start
For anybody who even remotely pays attention to the NFL, it’s no secret how impactful Derrick Henry is to the Titans offense. However, he tends to be at his most dangerous in December instead of September. While that’s great for the team in the long term, it often means we see a couple of sluggish games (by his standards) to begin the year.
Since 2019, Henry has averaged 84 yards per game and a pedestrian 3.87 yards per attempt in week 1 starts. We will see if Henry can buck that trend on Sunday, as he faces a Saints defense that allowed an average of 130 YPG at a 4.5 YPC clip in 2022.
5. Mike Vrabel The Dog
The Titans are 3 point underdogs this week, but they have at least one glaring advantage: Mike Vrabel as a dog.
Vrabel has been historically profitable as an underdog, going 23-15-1 ATS (against the spread) when not favored. That’s good for a 61% mark. When he’s an underdog of 3 or more, Vrabel is an even better 22-9-1 ATS, a 71% clip.
Heck, he even has a winning record straight-up as an underdog in his career: 20-19. With the Titans having a massive coaching advantage over the Saints’ Dennis Allen, they’re one of the favorite bets of the week for sharp bettors.
6. New Kids On The Block
The Titans kept eleven rookies on their 53-man roster this season. That’s quite a few!
They look to be keeping it that way heading into tomorrow’s game, though not all may be active. If ten of those rookies were to play against the Saints, it would be a franchise record for rookies to play at least 1 snap in Week 1.
OL Peter Skoronski will start, WR Kearis Jackson will return punts, and RB Tyjae Spears and TE Josh Whyle should be in the mix. But as for whether six other rookies see the field, only time will tell.
7. The Juwan Johnson Connection
Let’s turn our attention to the Saints for a moment. Even though Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first three games of the season and won’t suit up this week, the Saints will still have weapons at Derek Carr’s disposal.
Wide receivers Chris Olave and Michael Thomas constitute his most dangerous options. Jamaal Williams is an above-average runner behind Carr, but the player who could have the most sneaky-significant impact on this game is Saints TE Juwan Johnson.
The talk of the Saints off-season has been the connection that Johnson and Carr have been quickly developing. The Titans in 2022 allowed the 4th most receptions and the most receiving yards to tight ends in the league. The Saints could look to exploit that negative precedent by paying outsized attention to one of their largest receiving threats on Sunday.
8. Michael Thomas Revenge Tour?
One of the most interesting keys to the game Sunday will undoubtedly be the return of Slant Boy himself, Michael Thomas.
Thomas, who hasn’t played a full season since 2019, will look to get back on track on the wrong side of 30 years old. When he’s healthy he’s a force to be reckoned with, especially in Week 1. Michael Thomas edges out Deandre Hopkins for the most receptions per Week 1 game of any receiver in NFL history, with an average of 7.5 receptions.
Even last season Thomas contributed to the start of the Saints’ campaign, catching 5 balls for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 1. Expect Thomas to be as involved as ever as long as he stays clean, posing a major threat alongside Chris Olave.
9. A First Time For Everything
Not so much a stat, but this will be the first time Derrick Henry will ever play the New Orleans Saints. In fact, it is the only team Henry has never played against, other than his own two-toned blue. With his start against the Saints, he will have officially played against every other team in the NFL.
10. The Vet’s Vets
If you are looking for a Week 1 matchup between two highly-seasoned veteran quarterbacks, look no further.
As far as regular season games go, Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr are 5th and 6th place respectively for most career starts by an active quarterback entering 2023, only out-lasted by Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and of course Aaron Rodgers.