First place in the AFC South is on the line in Week 12, as the Indianapolis Colts (7-3) will play host to the Tennessee Titans (7-3). It’s a rematch from Week 10 when a couple of bad moments on special teams for the home team helped propel the Colts to a 34-17 victory on the road in Nashville.
Here is a preview of Sunday’s thriller, complete with a free pick. Indianapolis is a 3.5-point favorite going into the matchup.
After being a surprise AFC finalist last season and coming within one win of a Super Bowl appearance, the Titans picked up right where they left off and won their first five games. But they’re just 2-3 since then, with the Colts and lowly Bengals beating them by double-figures. But perhaps the Titans got back on track last week, upsetting the Ravens 30-24 in an overtime road win and scoring 30 points for the first time in over a month.
Statistically, the Titans still have one of the league’s better offenses. Tennessee ranks ninth with just under 28 points per game and 10th with 390.5 total yards. Much like last season, the Titans are finding most of their success on the ground, as running back Derrick Henry, who has already eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season, has helped them rank fifth with about 151 rushing yards as a team. However, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is having a little less success in the passing game, as Tennessee is just 23rd with an average of 228 passing yards per game. However, the veteran does have 22 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
Defensively, the Titans have had some problems getting stops. They’re averaging 26 points allowed, 18th in the NFL, but have given up just under 400 yards of offense per game. Tennessee’s pass defense is just outside the bottom-five in the NFL, and opponents are converting on third down 54 percent of the time, the highest mark in the league. Also, their 12 sacks are the third-fewest in football, but they have the fifth-most interceptions with 10 and the second-best turnover differential behind only the Steelers.
Following a couple of down years in Indianapolis, the Colts are right in the thick of the playoff race in the AFC. Now it didn’t look that way to start the year following a 3-2 start, which included a Week 1 loss to the Jaguars. But they are 4-1 over their last five games, scoring over 30 points in each of their wins, and coming off of a big comeback victory in overtime against the Packers. A two-touchdown loss to Baltimore in Week 9 remains their only double-digit loss of the season.
After a quiet start, Indianapolis is 10th with 27.6 points per game, just one spot behind Tennessee. They’re averaging about 379 yards per game, thanks to a passing attack led by the veteran QB, Philip Rivers, that is top-10 in football. Rivers has close to 2,700 passing yards but just 14 touchdowns to eight picks. With 109 rushing yards per game, the duo of Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines has struggled to get to the next level, also evident by a third-down conversion rate that is the fifth-lowest in the league.
However, the Colts hang their hat on defense, which is one of the strongest units in football. Indy gives up the second-fewest yards per game with just under 314 and ranks inside the top-four in both passing and rushing yards allowed. As a result, they are only giving up 20.8 points per game, fifth in the NFL. Indianapolis’ pass rush is good, not great, earning 22 sacks, but the rest of the defense is third with 12 interceptions and has the fourth-beat turnover differential.
Through 10 games, the Titans are only 4-6 ATS, while the Colts are 6-4 ATS. Indianapolis has played well at home, winning five of their last six games at Lucas Oil Stadium and, maybe, more importantly, are 10-2 straight up in their previous 12 home games against the Titans. As for Tennessee, they’re 1-4 ATS in their last five games against the Colts and 2-10 straight up, as just mentioned, and have won only three times over the last 18 matchups against their rivals.
Both recent form and the betting trends would indicate that the Colts have an advantage in this game. However, the last time these teams played, Tennessee had a couple of unlucky breaks that Indy benefited from in the second half. Otherwise, Henry still ran for over 100 yards, and the Titans held a halftime lead. I trust Tannehill to take care of the football more than Rivers, and the Titans forcing a turnover or two could make all the difference. I like the Titans +3.5 in this heavyweight fight.
Pick: Titans +3.5