Written by: Joseph Yun
The Colts travel to Nashville in the first of two potential AFC South division deciders against the rival Titans. Can the Colts offense find its footing against a Titans defense that’s hemorrhaging third-down conversions on the regular? Will the stout Colts defense prove itself worthy of slowing down King Henry? Is there a Titans offense somewhere amidst all the defensive chaos?
Tennessee enters the Thursday night contest with the AFC South lead but with two games in three weeks, any momentum can suddenly change hands at the drop of a hat. They will need to be on guard against a traditional bugaboo that has haunted their nightmares for years on end.
This article and future weekly articles were written with the assistance of the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia, which you can buy a PDF or hard cover copy here. The Encyclopedia has many features such as prospects, top team stars, and other countless data points to expand your knowledge of the game.
Note: all numbers courtesy of profootballreference.com
Key Numbers + Info (2020 season)
Record: 5-3 (0-1 AFC South)
Points scored: 208
Points allowed: 160
Avg. yards per rush: 3.7
Avg. yards per rush allowed: 3.3
Avg. rush yards per game: 102.37
Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 83.62
Rushing TDs: 8 for, 6 against
Avg. pass yards per game: 258.1
Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 206.37
Passing TDs: 10 for, 10 against
Pass Completion Rate: 67%
Pass Completion Rate Against: 63%
Top Rusher: Jonathan Taylor (106 attempts for 416 yards and four touchdowns)
Top Receiver: Zach Pascal (24 receptions for 297 yards and two touchdowns)
Top Tackler: Darius Leonard (51 tackles, four tackles for loss, two passes defended,
one forced fumble)
Key Additions: DL DeForest Buckner, QB Philip Rivers, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Jonathan Taylor (rookie), S Julian Blackmon (rookie)
Key Losses: TE Eric Ebron, CB Pierre Desir, OT Joe Haeg, S Malik Hooker (injured), RB Marlon Mack (injured), WR Parris Campbell (injured)
The Colts lead the all-time series 34-17
What Happened In The Last Game?
The Titans rallied from a third-quarter deficit behind the legs of Derrick Henry and won the game 31-17 in a must-have game in their pursuit to make the playoffs.
Keys to a Titans Victory
- Encore! - The Titans’ fabled ineptitude of defense held the Bears in check for large swaths of the game. Can they provide a repeat performance against a similarly banged-up Colts offense? The Colts are hugely hampered by key injuries to their top offensive weapons but the offensive line is solid and features the best guard in football. It will be paramount that the Titans get off the field as they did against the Bears on third downs as Philip Rivers is much more capable than Nick Foles is.
- Ryan Tannehill - He came through with several clutch plays last week when the Titans couldn’t get Derrick Henry going. Tannehill will have to deliver once again at Nissan Stadium with the highly ranked Colts run defense coming to town. Unfortunately, the Titans will be without receiver Adam Humphries again due to the concussion protocol. The Indianapolis secondary definitely has the talent to make the Titans’ passing attack rendered moot.
- Stop the Colts frontal attack - The Colts have one of the best front lines in the league that’s led by DeForest Bucker’s 13 QB hits and 2.5 sacks. Buckner is far from the only weapon that the Titans’ line will have to worry about as venerated linebacker Justin Houston is producing on top of leading sack artist Denico Autry.
Keys to a Colts victory
- Stop 22 - The Colts feature one of the best young linebacker corps in the NFL with all-star Darius Leonard and emerging star Bobby Okereke cleaning up what the line that features Buckner leaves for them. Leonard has quickly become one of the best linebackers in the league. Indianapolis will need to get Henry at the line of scrimmage as DH is one of the deadliest backs when he gets to the second level. Young Khari Willis has been a revelation for the Colts as he’s one of the more underrated box safeties in the league. Henry is the NFL’s second-leading rusher so there has been a little drop off in his play from 2019. The top three tacklers on the team are linebackers.
- Get Philip Rivers Going - Old warhorse Rivers has been wholly inconsistent this season but it could be in large part due to his skill position players being hurt or just living up to expectations. Thursday night will be a chore without outlet tight end Jack Doyle but the Colts gain back noted Titans killer receiver T.Y. Hilton. What’s really interesting is that the Titans defense can’t key their defense on one guy in the passing attack as Rivers has equally spread the ball around to Pascal, RB Nyheim Hines, Hilton, and TE Mo Alie-Cox. Of course, the line will have to hold up through its own bouts of inconsistency and injury for Rivers to get the ball there. The Titans’ pretty abysmal defense just may be the salve for the Colts’ offensive issues.
- Keep the ball - The Colts have had issues with turnovers as of late, in particular, rookie Jonathan Taylor. His fumble last week against the Ravens that inspired so many memes of Rivers haplessly attempting a “tackle” on the return. The Titans, while battling its own issues, have been one of the best teams in creating timely turnovers to flip the game.
Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia Prospects of the Week
1. LB Bobby Okereke
- He’s been one of the key cogs of the Colts defense alongside the aforementioned Leonard since his rookie season. The production hasn’t dropped off one bit as he is tied for the team lead among the front seven in passes defended and is second in tackles. He’s an athlete in every sense of the world.
10. Julian Blackmon
- The star safety from Utah hasn’t missed a beat despite tearing his ACL in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon. He’s third on the team in passes defended with six. Blackmon has played well in coverage as well.
What are the odds?
(all odds are courtesy of vegasinsider.com)
Caesar’s has the Colts as 1 point favorites at -115 while the Titans are +115 dogs. The over/under has been set at 49 even/
DraftKings has the Titans as 1 point favorites at -107 while the Colts are +107 dogs. The over/under has been set at 48.5.
The WestGate Superbook has the game as an Indy pick’em -110. The over/under has been set at 48.5