Thursday Night Football betting: Titans at Ravens, preseason week 1

If we’re getting two football games on Thursday night to bet on, it must be NFL season! Or preseason at least…

Kicking off just 30 minutes after the Giants vs. Patriots preseason game is the Titans-Ravens matchup, whose lines read like so:

Tennessee Titans +3½ at Baltimore Ravens, over/under 31 points

NFLbets’ short take: It is impossible to make an educated bet on any Ravens which does not involve Lamar Jackson. And Lamar Jackson will not be playing in this preseason game.

How dependent is the Ravens’ offense on Jackson? While the Ravens are no longer the NFL’s top rushing team, as has been the case through much of Jackson’s three-year stint as Baltimore starting QB, he was nevertheless again the team’s top rusher – This despite the offseason additions of Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. Freeman and Murray combined for just under 1,100 rushing yards; Jackson had 767 solo. And even though only playing in 13 of the Ravens’ 17 games, Jackson still accounted for 54.1% of the team’s total offensive yardage.

Now, if this were a regular-season game (with Jackson playing for the Ravens), this’d be a no-brainer. Yes, these two teams have split four meetings at 2-2 SU/ATS since Jackson joined Baltimore in 2018 but Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans have somehow managed to elicit less and less bettor confidence since sneaking into the 2020 AFC conference championship game.

This past season, the Titans’ overdependence on Derrick Henry may have been exposed: While Tennessee went a solid 6-3 without their monstrous halfback, they managed just a 2-2 mark against playoff teams. And running a rushed-back Henry 20 times in the playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals bodes very (very!) poorly for his future. You couldn’t convince NFLbets to touch D.H. in fantasy football this season with a 10-yard first-down marker.

But this isn’t the regular season. Jackson’s not playing and Henry’s not playing. And what can these two offenses do with second stringers that can’t be done with firsts? Here’s to thinking the Ravens second team could well sub for a few NFL teams’ first string. Take the under on an O/U of 31 points.

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