49ers-Titans best bets: Can Tennessee get back on track vs. surging San Fran?
The Tennessee Titans' grip on the AFC South's top spot is weakening after they lost three of their last four games, while the San Francisco 49ers have strengthened their playoff bid with wins in five of their last six.
The two teams meet Thursday night in Nashville with plenty of playoff implications on the line. Here's how we're betting 49ers-Titans:
C Jackson Cowart: Over 44.5
It's hard to know what to make of these 49ers, who've turned their season around with a major assist from lousy competition. That shouldn't fully discredit what we've seen from San Francisco's offense, which ranks fourth in DVOA and has scored at least 23 points in six consecutive games despite a slew of injuries to key skill-position stars.
Conversely, the Titans' scoring attack has been hindered by remarkably bad turnover luck. Tennessee rushed for 201 yards with 22 total first downs against the Steelers last week but scored just 13 points thanks to a whopping five fumbles (three lost) - the third time in four games this team has fumbled it at least four times.
Fumble luck is mostly random in the NFL, so don't discount the Titans too much heading into this matchup, especially with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown potentially playing Thursday. If those two can boost an offense that continues to dominate on the ground, we should see a shoot-out in this one.
Alex Moretto: D'Onta Foreman over 44.5 rush yards
There's no reason to believe the Titans will suddenly stop having success on the ground, which makes this line rather puzzling. Tennessee won't abandon the run with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones back. In fact, the presence of those two out wide should help D'Onta Foreman's cause here.
Foreman has enjoyed a massive share of touches out of the backfield the last few weeks and remains this offense's primary ball carrier. He's coming off a game in which he scampered for 108 yards on 22 totes. The 49ers are solid against the run, but this is a sheer volume play.
The Titans want to be a run-first club, and they have their most success - as do all teams - when they're running the ball efficiently and effectively. Brown and Jones will be eased back from lingering injuries, so 15 carries feels like Foreman's floor. Behind this dominant offensive line, he can surpass this total with a mere three yards per carry.
Matt Russell: Titans +3.5
This is a numbers play for me. Whether you play around with power ratings to create projected point spreads or you think about it qualitatively, you can understand why the 49ers might be overvalued after they won five of their last six games. Compare that with the Titans' struggles, and now the line is up to a field goal on a short week.
On the field, we might have already forgotten about the 49ers' loss in Seattle a couple weeks back. The Titans shot themselves in the foot in Pittsburgh last week, but they can move the ball effectively against San Francisco if they can avoid those crushing turnovers. Should Tennessee have as many opportunities in the red zone as the Falcons did against the 49ers last week, I trust this team to do a much better job converting them into scores.
I still have the 49ers favored in this game, but I can only get as high as -2.5. That makes the Titans the play for me at a key number, as nerve-racking as it is to go against Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.