The San Francisco 49ers (8-6) take on the Tennessee Titans (9-5) in the final Thursday Night Football game of the 2021 NFL season. The 49ers took care of Atlanta in a 31-13 win on Sunday while the Titans dropped a tough one, 19-13, in Pittsburgh to lose control of the top seed in the AFC. Let’s take a look at the NFL odds.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Tennessee Titans
Thursday, December 23, 2021 – 08:20 PM EST at Nissan Stadium
The 49ers (7-7 ATS) are a 3.5-point road favorite over the Titans (8-6 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. The 49ers are 6-2 in their last eight games after a slow start to the season. Injuries and turnovers have dramatically altered Tennessee’s season. Can the Titans turn things around on a short week?
49ers: Trust Jimmy Garoppolo?
The 49ers have been heating up on both sides of the ball, and they put together one of their most complete efforts of the season against Atlanta on Sunday. The offense seemed to find a better balance for Deebo Samuel's talents as he finished with 29 rushing yards and another touchdown to go along with four catches for 60 yards. Samuel was held to just three catches for 49 yards over his last three games.
Tight end George Kittle also went over 90 yards for the third game in a row. These defenses have both allowed fewer than 500 receiving yards to tight ends this season to rank among the best in the league with New England. But Kittle is at a level few can compare to, and he is the best in the league after the catch.
The 49ers rushed for 162 yards against Atlanta, ranking as their third-highest game this season. Running back Jeff Wilson excelled in his third start of the season, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown. But the Titans should be one of the toughest run defenses the 49ers face this season. Tennessee has held all but three teams under 100 rushing yards, and the Titans just held Najee Harris to 18 yards on 12 carries in Pittsburgh.
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is now leading the league in yards per pass attempt at 8.5, usually a number reserved for an elite season. But Garoppolo’s 54.0 QBR ranks 11th this season. Still, the offense has been consistent at scoring under Garoppolo in recent weeks, posting at least 23 points in the last six games. With Tennessee’s problems at scoring now, 23 points could be enough to pull this one out on the road.
Well as the Titans are known for their red-zone offense, the 49ers (73.8%) are the only offense scoring a touchdown over 70% of the time this season in the red zone.
Of San Francisco’s six losses this season, four were sweeps by Arizona and Seattle in the division. The only other losses were on a last-second field goal against the Packers and in a rain-soaked game against the Colts in Week 7.
Titans: Crushed Again by Turnovers
NFL teams that run for over 200 yards and allow fewer than 200 yards of offense win over 98% of their games since 1970. But the Titans had one of the rare losses on Sunday when they fell 19-13 in Pittsburgh despite leading 13-3 at halftime.
Turnovers were crucial again. For the fourth game in a row, the Titans played a game where one team had at least four giveaways to none for the opponent. Unfortunately, for the third time, it was Tennessee as Ryan Tannehill lost a fumble and had a tipped interception, and two of his lesser skill players coughed up the ball on fumbles. Tennessee has now lost the turnover battle 4-0 to Pittsburgh, 4-0 to New England, and 5-0 to Houston in the last month alone.
That’s 13 turnovers in three games for a team that had 12 turnovers in all of 2020. This could be a problem against a San Francisco defense that had five straight games with multiple takeaways before getting one more (and three fourth-down stops) against the Falcons on Sunday.
Injuries have also been problematic for Tennessee as star running back Derrick Henry and No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Brown continue to miss games. Future Hall of Famer Julio Jones also left the Pittsburgh game early as he cannot seem to shake a hamstring injury. His status could very well be in doubt for Thursday, and it is not clear if Brown will be cleared to play after returning from injured reserve for a chest injury. The Titans very well could be rolling with their new-look offense led by D'Onta Foreman, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, and Anthony Firkser.
It makes sense why this offense is struggling to score the last six games. Since Henry’s injury, Tannehill has thrown four touchdowns to seven interceptions. The running game has still been good in spurts, but the fumbles have gotten out of control.
Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel has an amazing track record as an underdog of more than three points: 15-7 ATS and 14-8 SU. As coach of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan is only 11-15-1 ATS and 18-9 SU as a favorite of more than three points.
However, this version of the Titans without Henry, Brown, and Julio is a mess that you could only trust to beat the likes of Jacksonville. Remember, the Titans lost to the Jets in overtime in a game without Brown and Jones. Assuming Brown does not return for this game, I would have no problem backing a San Francisco team that is playing well to get the cover to start your Week 16 NFL picks.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.