The Tennessee Titans picked a good time to get their heads back on straight, breaking a two-game losing streak with a decisive home win over a tranquilized Bears team on Sunday.
That win, coupled with the Indianapolis Colts home loss against the Baltimore Ravens, puts the Titans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South title heading into Thursday’s all-important divisional matchup with the Philip Rivers-led Colts.
In fact, the Titans are now favored to win the division, with prices ranging from -230 at DraftKings to -190 at FanDuel. Additionally, the oddsmakers slightly boosted the team’s chances to take the AFC Championship home, with FanDuel and BetMGM installing them at +1200 and DraftKings at +1500.
Of course, those numbers – especially the division winner price – are going to either skyrocket or crater after Thursday night. With a one-game division lead, the home favorite Titans (they’re a 1.5-point favorite at -110 across the board) can take the gallop out of the Colts with a victory. Of course, a Colts victory will have the opposite effect, with the teams then being tied and the Colts having the head-to-head advantage. Add in the fact these two teams will be facing off again in two weeks in Indianapolis, and you’ve got the recipe for, to date, the most important game on the schedule for the Titans.
Vegas expects a moderate scoring affair, with the over/under sitting at 49 at DraftKings, and 48.5 at BetMGM and FanDuel. Note the game opened at 51, so early week sharps immediately took a liking to the under. (They also bet the spread down from an opening -2.5 line for the Titans.) On the moneyline, the best bang for your buck is over at FanDuel, which has the Titans at -130.
Derrick Henry, pass-catcher?
On the field, these two teams play a similar style, hoping to control the clock with a strong running game, and using the passing game as a complement. The big difference? The Titans are succeeding, ranking 7th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 147.6, while the Colts are sitting at 102.4 yards a game, hiccuping in for 23rd in the league.
Of course, the Titans run game goes through Derrick Henry, who has found success in the past against the Colts. Last year, he went for 231 yards on 40 carries with a pair of touchdowns in the teams’ two matchups. But even more interesting: Henry got three targets out of the backfield in both games, tied for the most he got in any game in 2019. He turned those six total targets into just 29 yards, but it’s notable Arthur Smith, the Titans’ offensive coordinator, sought ways to get Henry the ball in space. It would make sense for Smith to continue to scheme passes to Henry, as the Colts defense is playing at an elite level this year, giving up the fewest total yards per game in the NFL. Anything to try and keep the Colts D on their heels would be worth doing, and if Henry’s reception prop comes in at 1.5, there may be value in the over.
One player the Colts may find problems with is A.J. Brown, who has quickly developed into one of the league’s most dangerous wideouts. The Colts play a ton of zone defense, so Brown streaking down the sideline on a Ryan Tannehill rainbow probably won’t be a thing this week, but if he manages to catch the ball in the middle of the field with a little room to operate, look out. Brown, according to Next Gen Stats, hit 21.52 MPH on his 73-yard slant-to-the-house against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6, and that was the fastest speed a wide receiver has hit this year during a game. Not an easy feat to duplicate, but Brown has become effectively matchup-proof.
Colts offense is … blah
On the other side of the ball, the Colts offense is … not great. T.Y Hilton is on the shelf, the run game has been stuck in second gear, and Philip Rivers is showing his age. Despite it all, the team is still scoring 26 points a game, a middling number in today’s NFL, but still: They ain’t the Jets.
Jordan Wilkins has become the 1A to Jonathan Taylor’s 1B-bordering-on-1C in the backfield, and Nyheim Hines is mixing in on passing downs. On the wide receiver front, T.Y. Hilton has been either terrible or hurt and the rest of the wideouts are dusty. Jack Doyle has a concussion and probably won’t play, leaving Trey Burton and the super-athletic (but barely on the field) Mo Allie Cox as tight end options.
Again, it ain’t pretty on the Colts’ side of the ball, but they’ve more or less managed to get it done, somehow. The Titans defense — a unit that played well last week against the Bears, forcing eight punts — doesn’t exactly have its hands full, but they’d be wise to not sleep on Rivers, who has the 12th most fourth quarter comebacks in the history of the NFL.
One last note: The last time the Titans played on a Thursday night was in Week 2 last year against the Jaguars, a game they lost 20-7. Hopefully Mike Vrabel learned a thing or two about short weeks since then.