Maybe the Green Bay Packers are back. Perhaps their overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys sparks a second-half surge that lands them in the playoffs. We've seen teams get hot like that before.
But that fourth quarter and overtime last week was about the only stretch in which we've seen the Packers play well since the end of September. From the start of October, they had a dubious overtime win over the New England Patriots — we should have known then the Packers were in trouble — five straight losses, then a 28-14 deficit to the Dallas Cowboys through three quarters. Again, maybe the comeback over the Cowboys was a sign of things turning around. It seems oddsmakers believe that's the case.
The Packers are 3-point favorites over the Tennessee Titans at BetMGM. The odds on the Packers' side are -115, meaning they're more than the standard field-goal favorite.
That says something about how oddsmakers view the Titans, as well.
The Titans aren't dominant but they have been better than the Packers this season. They're 6-3, the -500 favorite to win the AFC South. Their losses are all reasonable: a last-minute loss to the New York Giants in Week 1 (that has aged well with the Giants at 7-2), a lopsided loss at the Buffalo Bills and an overtime loss at the Kansas City Chiefs with rookie Malik Willis pressed into duty at quarterback. The combined record of the three teams to beat the Titans is 20-7.
Tennessee isn't an analytical darling or a particularly strong first-place team. But they probably deserve better than to be a tick more than a field-goal underdog at a Packers team whose last seven results are five losses and two home overtime wins.
The Packers did some good things last week. Maybe rookie Christian Watson's breakout three-touchdown game sparks the offense. But until we see that for more than a couple periods from the Packers, they should be viewed as the same team that entered the fourth quarter last Sunday trailing 28-14 and in danger of falling to 3-7. We know what we'll get from the Titans. The same shouldn't be said for Green Bay.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
Any props for Thursday night?
Maybe Christian Watson has been unlocked. He's +160 to score anytime on Thursday night and I'll bet on him staying hot. Might as well take him at +1000 for the first touchdown too.
According to Football Outsiders' DVOA, the Titans have the best rush defense in the NFL, and the Packers rank 30th (another reason to like the Titans and the points). I'll take Aaron Jones under 57.5 rushing yards. It's harder to take Derrick Henry over 99.5 rushing yards because it's such a large number, but I wouldn't take the under.
A small NBA card
The NBA has just three games on Thursday and none are particularly appealing. The Brooklyn Nets at the Portland Trail Blazers is interesting because the Nets have been so poor most of the season and they're coming off giving up 153 points to the Sacramento Kings. Portland is favored by 2.5. Speaking of the Kings, they've been surprisingly good this season. They're 7-6 and on Thursday have a shot at another win over the San Antonio Spurs. Sacramento is a 7.5-point favorite.
No great college hoops
Soon the early-season tournaments will be starting and we'll get some more good games, but after some strong matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday there isn't much on the college basketball slate. Five ranked teams play on Thursday, and none of them are matched up against a top-100 team in KenPom.com's rankings. Texas A&M against Murray State at the Myrtle Beach Invitational is the best game of that lot. The Aggies are a 12.5-point favorite. There's not many other compelling games on the card.
Big night for the NHL
The NHL has taken to scheduling a lot of games on Thursdays, which is good news on a slow hoops night. There are 13 games on the schedule and some good ones. Calgary Flames at Tampa Bay Lightning (-120), New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs (-145) and Colorado Avalanche at Carolina Hurricanes (-120) stand out. Of the three road favorites, I might look at the red-hot Devils.
What's the best bet?
I'll make the Packers prove that they're actually back. Green Bay has been bad most of the season and you know you'll get a solid effort out of the Titans each week. I'll take the Titans and the points.