Week 17 preview: Colts @ Titans

The game is a story of perseverance. Both teams have had their highs and lows during the season, but no matter the outcome of tonight’s game, they will both end with winning records.

The Colts’ first half of the season was a low note, as they fell to 1-5 out of the gate. The message boards and Facebook comment sections were a battlefield between those who screamed to, “Fire Reich” and “Bench Luck” and those who remained cautiously optimistic that their team still had a chance due to the rough shape of the entire AFC South at the time. (Houston led the division at just 4-3 at the time)

Now the Colts have come roaring back, and have placed themselves in a position to steal the AFC South crown, should the other two contenders slip up. Winning 8 of their last 9 games, Indy has become the hottest team in the league. They’ve killed winning streaks, beat playoff teams, and stifled premier running backs on their way to 9-6.

Tennessee began the year on a roller coaster ride. With 6 of their first 7 seven games being decided by a touchdown or less, the Titans managed to go 3-4 at the beginning of their 2018 campaign. Then, they dug in a little deeper, winning their next two against the Cowboys in Dallas and coming home to dismantle New England 34-10! Then another hiccup, as they dropped their next two to Indianapolis and Houston on the road, but they didn’t lose sight, and have managed to win their last 4 games on their way to 9-6. So, the big question for Tennessee is which version of their team will show up? Will it be the team that couldn’t seem to win the close games, or the more recent Titans who have won 6 of their last 8?

You can see a lot of similarities in these two teams. For example:

Both have forced a shutout

Both have been shut out

Both have had winning streaks of 4+ games

Both have losing streaks of 3 games

Both have top 10 defenses over the second half of the season.

Both defenses are holding teams to an average of 13.5 points or less in the last 4 weeks

There are differences though. These are the most lopsided of those differences:

Passing TD’s – Luck 2nd (36) > Mariota 29th (11)

PPG- IND 7th (26.7) > TEN 26th (19.5)

Rushing YPG- IND 21st (104) < TEN 5th (128.7)

Passing YPG- IND 6th (278.9) > TEN 29th (187.3)

PPG allowed- IND 13th (21.8) < TEN 2nd (18)

I think this will be a hard fought battle. I believe that the Titans of week 11 are a thing of the past, and they will show up in prime time in front of their home crowd at Nissan Stadium. That being said, the Tennessee has a lot of players playing banged up or missing the game due to injury. To me, there are two big things to watch for in this game. The first will be Marcus Mariota. If he does in fact play, what level will he be at? Stating that he was numb throughout his body last week raised eyebrows, and it will be interesting to see how effectively he will be able to grip and throw the football. The second, is watching how effective the Titans rush defense will be without starters Jurrell Casey and Brian Orakpo in the lineup. Colts’ running back Marlon Mack has shown great ability in many games this season, as he’s racked up nearly 800 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns on the year. With the run stopping Casey out of the lineup, will that mean a big night for Mack?

My prediction:

I think this game has the potential to be a shoot out. Titans running back Derrick Henry has been in a zone the last 4 weeks, but on the same token, the Darius Leonard and the Indy defense contained two of the NFL’s best backs in Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley. I say the Colts get the edge and the win for their ability to put points on the scoreboard and that they have a top 10 defense against a bottom 10 Titans offense. The Colts have a top 10 scoring and passing offense, and I think that will show on Sunday night. Indianapolis wins this one 31-20.

Photo Credit: AP Photo – Darron Cummings

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