The Colts will have the tall task of picking up the pieces of their historic 62-7 loss to the Saints last Sunday night when they travel to Nashville this Sunday to take on the division-rival Titans, who are coming off their own embarrassing loss, 41-7 to the Texans. For the season, the Titans sit at 3-3, a half-game behind the Texans for first in the AFC South.
Last season, the Colts beat the Titans twice in the final four weeks, with each of them decided by three points or less. The game in Nashville was a 30-28 Colts win, with a last play TD causing the Colts not to cover and costing me money (thanks Kerry Collins). The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead, with Pierre Garcon finding the end zone twice, but the Titans slowly crept back into the game after the Colts could only manage three Adam Vinatieri field goals the rest of the game. The season finale looked like the Titans were going to play spoiler after Dominic Rhodes fumbled with 1:34 remaining in a tie game at the Colts, giving the ball back at the Colts 37 yard line. But our good friend Kerry Collins fumbled the second down snap, the Colts recovered, and Peyton Manning got the Colts into field goal range, where Vinatieri did the rest in a 23-20 win, securing the AFC South title.
Overall since the Titans moved to Nashville the Colts hold a 13-6 series advantage, including winning the last five matchups, and a 6-3 edge when playing at Tennessee. The last Titan win came in Week 8 in 2008, a 31-21 game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate; the Titans kicked the Colts around all game on a Monday night, and a late Manning TD run made the game respectable.
How do the 2011 versions of the Colts and Titans match-up? Let's find out...
Adjusted Statistical Comparison for the Colts and Titans:
|Avg Start Pos||27.1||31||34.3||30||29.8||23||30.2||13|
|3 and Outs||4.57||22||3.05||25||3.93||15||2.32||31|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.703||11||0.810||17||1.044||27||0.696||24|
|Net Punts Yds/Game||37.60||19||38.05||15||34.96||26||36.41||6|
Keys to the game:
- If you expect to see a low-scoring defensive struggle, you probably should just flip to another game. These are the two worst defenses in the NFL, statistically speaking, and the key will be which defense can slow the other one down. I expect the Over to hit Sunday.
- The only thing the Colts have done consistently well all year is run the ball, and the Titans defense is pretty average in both rushing stats. It'll take some pressure off of Curtis Painter as well. It won't matter, however, if the Colts get down early like last week. In hindsight, running the ball even when down big might have been a better plan, as it would have given the Saints less chances to score points.
- I seem to say this each week, but in order for the Colts to have a chance, they must control the clock. The Titans seem to be quite good at giving up long, time-consuming drives, so maybe for the first time this season we'll see the Colts hold onto the ball for longer than two minutes per drive. We can hope, right?
- The Titans aren't as susceptible to the big play, being middle of the pack in Yards per Play. If the Colts are to win, they probably won't have the luxury of long bombs to Garcon like they have in previous games.
- The Titans offense is much improved this season with Matt Hasselbeck at QB, ranking 12th overall despite the fact their best player, RB Chris Johnson, has done absolutely nothing so far this season. It's strange to see the two rushing stats so low for the Titans, but that's the kind of season it's been around the NFL.
- The Passing game for the Titans should be their primary weapon, as the Colts can't stop anyone throwing the ball. I don't expect it to be at last week's level of slaughtering, but Hasselbeck is probably a decent play this week in Fantasy Football.
- The Titans have been quite good on 3rd/4th Downs, ranking 7th in the NFL. This stat didn't matter much for the Saints last week, as they didn't face a 3rd down until they were up 28-0. The first step will be getting the Titans into 3rd downs, then stopping them on those 3rd downs.
- We'll also most likely see the game decided in the Red Zone, where the Titans have scored touchdowns most of the time they get there, getting 80% of their possible points. The Colts defense hasn't been good inside the 20 (duh), so they'll need to finally force some field goals if they want to win.
Last season, I don't think I picked the Colts to lose a game, even though they lost six times (seven if you count the playoffs), and it wasn't really out-of-whack to do that. From here going forward, however, I'm going to be hard-pressed to predict the Colts to win. This week looks like there's a possibility the Colts could break through, as the Titans haven't been very good defensively, and been wildly inconsistent on both sides of the ball, meaning they could potentially lay a giant egg, but could also play like the Saints did Sunday night; we just don't know. I think the game will be close, but the Titans have a better team, and I can't see this Colts team going on the road and winning at a division rival. It should be an entertaining game, but like each of the first 7 weeks, the Colts will come out on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
Titans 31, Colts 26