It's officially football weather, with temperatures expected to dip below freezing in Green Bay for "Thursday Night Football." There is no better way to leap into this part of the season than a cold, frigid prime-time game at Lambeau Field. From this point forward, the weather report becomes just as significant as the injury report. Freezing rain, snow and wind impact games across the country, and bettors must adjust their handicaps to the conditions.
When the schedule makers penciled in the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers on Amazon Prime, I'm sure they expected to feature two of the league's top teams. But as always, the football gods had different plans this year. After an 0-2 start, the Titans have overcome major injuries to win six of their last seven, swiftly seating themselves back in the AFC South throne. The Packers have been a shell of last year's team without WR Davante Adams, but an upset win over the Cowboys could be a turning point for Green Bay. Is the Pack back? Or will King Henry crush any hope of Aaron Rodgers completing another incredible comeback story? Let's find the right side for this fascinating matchup and take a shot on a +1750 parlay for Thursday night's game.
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers -3 (-115)
It's hard not to root for the Tennessee Titans. Every summer, articles flood our timelines with why the Titans will fall off, and all they do is cash tickets for bettors. Mike Vrabel has made a career of ripping power ratings to shreds and overcoming the longest of odds. The Titans have covered seven straight games and are a league-best 8-4 on the money line as an underdog since the beginning of last year. As undervalued as the Titans have been this season, the Packers are overvalued. Green Bay is 0-5 ATS in their last five games as a favorite. It sounds like an easy decision to pound the Titans, but not so fast. If something looks too good to be true in the betting world, you better start digging into the numbers.
Green Bay's defense has been Swiss cheese against the run this season (28th in success rate allowed), but a few factors lead me to believe the Packers can get stops against the Titans' offense. Green Bay's defensive backfield can match up with the Titans' wideouts. Plus, I don't believe Ryan Tannehill will be a threat to go vertical in these cold, windy conditions. All this gives Green Bay more flexibility in how they want to attack the Titans' running game. They won't stop Derrick Henry, but the defense can get off the field if they put the Titans into some third-and-medium situations. The Packers held Dallas to a 33% third-down conversion rate despite Tony Pollard's success on the ground last week.
Both defenses have been excellent on third downs (TEN 1st; GB 3rd). I see this playing out as a slow-paced, field-position battle coming down to which quarterback can make big plays in high-leverage situations. I have seen Aaron Rodgers come through too many times in these types of games to fade him in this spot. Matt LaFleur's offense is tailor-made to attack the Titans' biggest vulnerability on defense. Per Football Outsiders, Tennessee ranks 31st in covering opposing running backs and allows the sixth-most yards per game. Aaron Jones will play a massive role in sustaining drives, allowing Rodgers to set up explosive plays to his new favorite target, Christian Watson. On a night where points will be at a premium, I like Green Bay to build off last week in front of the home crowd and cover this number.
One-game parlay: +1750
Christian Watson (ATTD)
Derrick Henry (ATTD)
Anytime touchdown scorers are far from predictive, so they are high-risk, high-reward plays that help yield a much more profitable return. They make sense here for both players. Henry's horsepower will always be the engine of Tennessee's red-zone offense. He was held without a touchdown last week against a tough Denver defense, but he was coming off two consecutive two-touchdown games. Also, Watson's emergence last week is enough for me to return to the well. His three-touchdown performance isn't repeatable, but his eight targets solidified that he earned his quarterback's trust.
I see both players hitting paydirt, leaving us only the side and total to complete the parlay. I discussed why I like Green Bay in the game, and setting the under above the key number of 43 gives us a little extra cushion. We know what brand of football Vrabel will bring to the game. The Packers' strong commitment to the running game last week should also be the formula Thursday night. A cold-weather game with two teams pounding into each other's defenses should keep the clock running. A 23-17 Packers win with touchdowns from Watson and Henry activates a nice +1750 payout.
Stats provided by rbsdm, teamrankings.com.