Each week, Coach Kevin Kelley will give a coach’s perspective and provide analysis for a few games against the spread throughout the 2022 NFL season.

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (+2.5)

Joe Burrow and the Bengals come to town to face Derrick Henry and the Titans and you couldn’t have two teams that rely on something so much as these two teams do. They don’t rely on the same thing but they both absolutely count on one thing to help them with the other part of offense.

The Bengals of course rely on the passing game and their defense has been so much better this year than in the past few. The Titans rely heavily on that run game and their defense is doing the same, just getting better and better.

Both teams rank in the upper third of the league by DVOA with Cincy coming in at No. 10 overall and Tennessee coming in at No. 12. The disparity lies in what each is good at versus what the other lacks on defense.

The Bengals are simply good at passing the ball. Ja’Marr Chase is expected back while Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins both picked up some of the slack while he was gonel. When someone plays them in man, they outmatch their opponents, and when teams play zone, they have a great scheme and are good with high-low plays on a defender as well as stressing them inside out as well.

Tennessee’s defense, though, is ranked No. 1 against the run so that’s not their strength at first glance. But they aren’t too bad against the pass, coming in at No. 13. The defensive line comes in overall ranked No. 2 in the league. Their defensive line is much better at not getting moved back than they are rushing the passer but the fact that they get a slow steady push almost every play takes its toll on quarterbacks as well. 

The Titans’ offense, on the other hand, wants to batter you with Henry, then hit you with play-action with Treylon Burks, the rookie wide receiver from Arkansas. They will be going against a defense that comes in overall ranked No. 13, but just No. 16 against the run.  The Titans’ numbers are good obviously with Henry, but are a little worse than they should be because they had to go a few games without Ryan Tannehill.

Teams quickly realized they could stack the box and not worry about the pass because Malik Willis just wasn’t showing that he could get it done. Treylon Burks missed some time too which made it even worse. What did the Titans do during their last eight games, which included this time without crucial players? They simply won eight straight games ATS going 7-1 straight up during those games. Mike Vrabel is doing an unbelievable job yet again. They just keep winning games and putting up numbers like having the best record in the AFC last year, and having a top-10 defense this year without having any stars on their roster besides Henry.

He is good, but who wins a lot of games anymore with just a big-name running back? Look at Nick Chubb and Cleveland or Josh Jacobs and Las Vegas. They have top running backs and their teams just can’t win. Maybe that’s why I am intrigued. I feel like they just find something every week because they have to with less talent overall. 

The eyeball test, for sure, goes to the Bengals. With the three players I mentioned that catch the ball, and Joe Burrow leading the offense, it’s hard to find a way to bet against them. But, that said, on the road is where they appear to be a little vulnerable. The Steelers played them close last week and the Browns actually destroyed them 32-13 two weeks before that. They barely beat New Orleans on the road and lost at Baltimore. Coaches say physicality travels and when it doesn’t, you play bad teams close and lose to decent ones. That’s what I see here.

The Titans, on the other hand, will be at home with only a one-point loss in the opening game against a 7-3 Giants team at home. They haven’t lost at home since and, looking at their schedule, might not. The only one that scares me that they have left is Dallas, and with their run defense being the best in football, that will make it tough on a balanced Cowboys attack. 

Add in that the Bengals haven’t strung together more than two wins in a row this year and the fact that Burks and Tannehill came back and have two games under their belts now, and I like the chemistry I am seeing. At Green Bay, Burks was a man, hauling in seven passes, a couple of those in tight coverage, for 111 yards. Tannehill threw for 333 yards and that has to make the Bengals a little fearful about packing that box this week. (Most teams are scared of what they themselves do well.)  

The closest thing to the Bengals I can see in determining how the Titans will play is the game against Kansas City that the Titans lost 20-17. They sacked Patrick Mahomes four times, and picked him off once. Mahomes threw for some yards but when the field shrank in the red zone, they held the Chiefs out. They allowed only 14 yards rushing to the running backs of the Chiefs. 

The current line is Tennessee +2.5 and it opened at +1.5 at my book. I think we can get +3 before Sunday at kickoff when everyone is sure Chase is coming back and I am taking the points. Tennessee by 7!

» Bet Bengals vs Titans Now

$20 Off Super Bowl Package
NFL Picks + Props + 25 page report

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) at Cleveland Browns

I had a difficult time picking out my next game. The warm weather Tom Brady Buccaneers head to Cleveland to take on Jacoby Brissett in what looks to be his last game as a starter. Deshaun Watson is set to come back next week against the Texans and I cannot imagine in any way that it could help the team this week knowing this.

Playoff hopes are gone. Players are just wanting to play football and finish this disappointing season out. And now all of a sudden they know it will be a media circus at practice starting right after this game ends. I bet some of the guys on the team want Brissett to continue to get to be the quarterback and others want Watson. So they are starting this game off with that hanging over their head along with the fact that they have only won a single game over their last eight games.

As good as Nick Chubb and that run-blocking offensive line is, what in the world would make us think they are ready to fix it all and beat the Bucs? The Bucs have only won three of their last eight but they have won their last two, albeit a Rams team that me and 10 of you might be able to give a game to and a Seattle team in Germany. 

Tampa’s defense has played better the last two weeks. Against the Rams (when they had Cooper Kupp and Matt Stafford healthy), the Bucs held them to 206 yards. Against the quarterback in Geno Smith, who is leading the league in several categories, they held them to 285 yards.

Tampa comes in at No. 8 in DVOA on defense overall. They are No. 6 against the run and No.11 versus the pass. The Nick Chubb-led Browns come in No. 4 overall on offense and No. 7 passing while No. 4 running the ball. More than anyone, their ability to run the ball opens up passing lanes via play-action, and having to play a defense to stop Chubb. Even with that good of an offense in DVOA they still somehow rank just 10th in scoring in the NFL. That is largely due to their middle of the pack third down conversion rate and their No. 17 rank in explosive plays. It is a stalemate at best with the Cleveland offense versus the defense of the Bucs.

The advantage will occur when Tampa has the ball. I would not have guessed I would say that a few weeks ago and it’s not completely because Tampa has figured anything out but more due to the fact that Cleveland comes in ranked No. 31 in defense overall, No. 27 versus the pass, and dead last against the run. That will certainly help what looks like a Tampa offense that is trying to run the ball some.

They ran for over 160 yards versus the Seahawks and did some nice things with play-action off that. That play-action will help an offensive line that ranks in the bottom seven in run blocking and pass blocking.

But the Bucs do have a two-game winning streak and the lead in the NFC South. They are coming off a bye week that will help with some healing they needed and they still have something to play for unlike Cleveland. And getting some momentum coming into this game, finding some success on offense the last two weeks, and playing a defense that simply struggles in all aspects of the game is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Bucs. Add in some extra Julio Jones time and I look for Brady to throw for 300 yards and for them to have over 100 rushing, which is a lot for them.

Bucs by more than 10. The line is currently -3.5 and I am going to wait and see if it goes to -3 at one of my books.

» Bet Buccaneers vs Browns Now

No extra plays last week but still on an 8-3-2 run (although if you waited a day to get the Falcons -2.5 last week you are 9-2-1 for the last plays). I am teasing the Falcons to 10 and the Eagles down to -.5 points in another play.

Get a $1,000 Risk-Free Bet
For new customers to BetMGM