Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans Matchup Preview (9/12/21): Betting Odds, Depth Charts, Live Stream (Watch Online)
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans Matchup Preview (9/12/21)
Fresh off an AFC title game appearance in 2019 and an AFC South division title in 2020, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans are riding a ton of momentum heading into 2021.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are looking to re-set. Kyler Murray led the team to eight wins last season, but the season was largely a disappointment, as the offensive attack slowed considerably as the season progressed.
In the third year of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray regime, it’s time for the air-raid offense to wake up and start producing some results. That starts with today’s game, where the Cardinals are 3-point home favorites.
Let’s dive in and see if we can find some value in this Week 1 matchup.
Date: 12th, September 2021
Time: 1:00 PM ET
Location: Nissan Stadium – Nashville, TN
TV Coverage: CBS
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans Live Stream
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Arizona Cardinals Analysis
The Cardinals had an intriguing offseason. They suffered a massive loss in Patrick Peterson, which should weaken the secondary tremendously. However, they also picked up two veterans on that side of the ball in JJ Watt and Malcolm Butler – two players that can produce on the field and bring much-needed leadership in the locker room.
The Arizona defense was quite good in 2020, as they finished 10th in the NFL in defensive DVOA. Specifically, they played excellent against the pass game, where they finished ninth in NFL in pass defense DVOA, allowed the 10th fewest passing yards in the NFL, and finished fourth in team sacks.
As a result of their pass defense, the Cardinals were the second biggest under team in the NFL last year, going 11-5 to the Under (68.8%). If you had bet $100 on every Cardinals under, you would have netted $542 in the process.
However, the fans and media aren’t focused on the team’s defense. Instead, the Kingsbury offense is the focus heading into 2021.
For the first few weeks, the Cardinals offense looked playoff ready. They had scored 30-plus points in six of their first 9 games, and Murray had tossed 17 touchdowns and 2300 yards during that span.
But then it fell apart. The Cards offense reached that number just once in their final seven contests, and Murray tossed eight picks down the stretch. It’s worth mentioning that Murray was banged up, specifically with a shoulder injury, but the Kingsbury air-raid attack looked more like a cute collegiate scheme rather than a professional level offense.
Overall, Arizona finished 19th in the NFL in offense DVOA in 2020 – 14th in pass DVOA and 17th in rush DVOA. The numbers are widely considered a disappointment.
But the Cardinals offense looks to be revamped heading into this season. They dropped the overrated Kenyon Drake in favor of the more versatile James Conner, and then added AJ Green to pair with DeAndre Hopkins.
The offensive line has some question marks. They finished 30th in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards, but they also finished eighth in adjusted sack rate – allowing just 29 sacks on the year.
From the outside looking in, it seems as if the Cardinals are going to lean heavily on the passing game moving forward. Murray finished second among quarterbacks in rushing yards last season, and that strategy only led to fewer points scored and more injuries suffered.
This is the year Kingsbury needs to prove his offensive attack works. Luckily, the Cardinals have a relatively easy schedule in 2021. While their division opponents are tough, they match up with the weak AFC South in non-conference play and have non-divisional games against Houston and Detroit. Plus, some of their tougher games are at home, including against the Packers and the Vikings.
Arizona Cardinals Depth Chart
Tennessee Titans Analysis
The Titans should have high expectations heading in 2021. Tennessee has seen a few years of sustained success under Mike Vrabel and Ryan Tannehill, and the team is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as AFC South champions – especially with the Carson Wentz injury news looming over Indianapolis and the Deshaun Watson trade rumors looming over Houston.
The Titans are built on their offense. They feature an excellent offensive line (second in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards), an all-world running back in Derrick Henry (2141 rush yards in 2020), and an elite quarterback in Tannehill (3819 pass yards in 2020, 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions).
Moreover, they boosted that attack by adding Julio Jones. Jones has had a few underwhelming seasons, but he should still be considered a low-end WR1. Plus, he’s sure to see more success in this offense, being paired with Tannehill and A.J. Brown.
All-in-all, the Titans finished fourth in offense DVOA last season – fourth in pass DVOA and second in rush DVOA – and the unit should be even better this season. Tennessee will be a scary rival for any AFC team.
However, the defense needs substantial work. They finished 29th in defense DVOA last season, including finishing 30th in pass defense DVOA where they allowed the fourth most passing yards in the NFL.
Where the Titans substantially struggled, however, were in clutch situations. On 3rd and 4th downs, the Titans posted the fourth worst defense DVOA, and Tennessee allowed the highest third down conversion percentage in the NFL (51.98%).
The defense simply couldn’t get off the field. And as the defensive personnel became worn down, they got worse and worse as the game progressed.
Luckily, the Titans offense scored the second most points in the NFL last season (491) and it carried them to an 11-5 record. But when push came to shove, they went one-and-done in the playoffs, suffering a 20-13 defeat at the hands of Baltimore.
The Titans should be considered in the top tier of AFC teams, but they lost a lot over the offseason. Notable offensive departures include Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith, while notable defensive departures include Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson.
At the minimum, however, the Titans managed to replace some level of that production lost. The Titans signed Janoris Jenkins as their CB1, snatched edge rusher Bud Dupree from the Steelers, and of course they added Jones.
But the defense in Nashville is still a major concern, and if Vrabel doesn’t turn that unit around, it will be a major barrier to the Lombardi Trophy.
Tennessee Titans Depth Chart
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans Betting Corner
The Cardinals enter this matchup as a short underdog, a spot where they’ve been very comfortable. Kingsbury is 7-3-2 ATS as a road dog in his short career, and he should be scrappy as a three-point dog in this matchup.
The total has opened north of 50, which seems fair given these two potentially explosive offenses and questionable defenses. Additionally, the Titans are 11-3-1 to the over at home with Tannehill at quarterback.
That is where I see value in this matchup. The Titans are going to be able to move the ball, and if the Cardinals are serious about committing more to the passing game, they should see success against a very weak passing defense.
I think Murray and Tannehill are going to duel it out in Week 1, so I’m playing the over 51 at DraftKings and grabbing my popcorn.
The Pick: Over 51 (-110)
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Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans Daily Fantasy Picks
It may seem obvious, but I think we should look at Julio Jones in DFS lineups. The Titans lost three of their top four reception leaders from last season, and they will have to lean on Jones to replace that lost production.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals finished 2020 23rd in pass DVOA vs. #2 WRs, and they only got weaker in that area this season. I believe they are going to focus their defensive efforts on A.J. Brown, and while they have the personnel to do so, they’ll be short-handed in defending Jones.
Jones may be slightly pricey, given he’s a big name on a new team, but I really like him in this matchup. Even with all the issues, Jones still hit his over receiving yards prop in five of his nine games with Atlanta last season, and now he finds himself with a major role in a high-powered offense.
I would consider Jones before you lock in your DFS lineups for Week 1.