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Will Marcus Mariota throw a red-zone interception

NFL Spreads

Turnovers in the game of football are tough. Turnovers in the red zone are killers. When a team owns that 20-yard patch of field on offense, they can be difficult to beat. The Tennessee Titans found their red-zone warrior in Marcus Mariota. Taken with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota was the guy to turn the fortunes of the Titans around.

Stability at the position had been hard to find after Steve McNair left, but the Titans offense has gone from 30th in scoring in 2014 to 14th last season with Mariota’s precision in the red-zone a big reason why.

Will Marcus Mariota throw a red-zone interception during 2017-18 NFL regular season?

Yes -110

No -120

Turnovers are a part of the game. Defenses work on creating them and even the best quarterbacks throw interceptions. So many things can go wrong to blow up a play. A defender gets a hand in the face, a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage, a receiver running the wrong route or just a bad throw. For two seasons none of that has happened to Mariota and the Titans in the red-zone.

Mariota was aided by the league’s third-best running attack last season and didn’t need to toss the ball all over the yard. His 54 red-zone pass attempts were more than only three regulars and his 18 red-zone touchdown passes were the 10th-highest total. The Titans relied on the running game when getting inside the opponent’s 20-yard line with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry accounting for 13 red-zone rushing touchdowns.

Key Factor

Behind Murray, Henry and an offensive line that turned into a dominating unit under Mike Mularkey, the Titans abused opponents on the ground, finishing third in the league with an average of nearly 137 yards per game. New offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie wants to see the same kind of play in the passing game.

The Titans ranked 25th in passing offense last season with 221 yards per outing, partly due to the success of the running game. But the team lacked play-making wideouts and had tight end Delanie Walker tie for the team lead in receptions. On top of that, Murray was the third-leading receiver.

Tennessee used three of its first four draft picks on receivers Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and tight end Jonnu Smith. The fourth selection, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, can also play offense. The Titans want the passing game to be more instrumental and not just a complement to the rushing attack. There will be more pass attempts, including in the red-zone, and that increases the likelihood of Mariota’s first pick.

NFL Free Picks

If anything the odds are in favor of Mariota throwing a red-zone pick. He’s tossed 96 passes inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in two years and has 13 touchdowns without being intercepted. Even the best aren’t immune from turning the ball over. Drew Brees threw three red-zone picks last season and Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford all had multiple red-zone interceptions.

Aaron Rodgers was intercepted four times in the red-zone in 2015 and Tom Brady has tossed four red-zone interceptions over the last two years. Like I mentioned earlier, there is so much that can happen to disrupt a play and even the best in the business have had miscues in Mariota’s time in the league.

The coaching staff in Tennessee has said there will be more of an emphasis on the passing game and the Titans looked the part in the draft. More pass attempts will increase the chance of a miscue and it’s not like Mariota hasn’t tossed a pick during his career. His nine picks last season were down the list but the number was two more than Rodgers in 159 fewer attempts. It’s hard to imagine Mariota going another season without a red-zone interception when there are so many variables that come into play.

NFL Prediction: Will Marcus Mariota throw a red-zone interception? Yes.