Can you believe it's Week 17 already? It seems like this season has flown by much more so than previous ones, and I'm not quite sure why. The Colts will wrap up their regular season Sunday afternoon in Nashville, as they take on the 2-13 Titans.
After the Colts Week 16 loss to the Cowboys and after both the Steelers and Bengals won their games last week, the Colts are essentially locked into the #4 seed (barring a CIN-PIT tie). It means that the Colts will play a virtually meaningless game this week, and as luck would have it it comes against a team the Colts have played meaningless games against before. In 2008 both the Colts and Titans were locked into their Playoff seeds, and the Colts whipped the Titans 23-0. The year before the Colts were locked into the #2 seed, and the Titans needed a win to make the Playoffs. The Colts rested most of the starters, and the Titans needed two 4th quarter field goals to win 16-10. When it comes to meaningless Week 17 games, the Colts and Titans are quite familiar with the situation.
The game does have a bit of meaning to the Titans, but it's only for draft position. If they were to lose Sunday, they'd have at worst the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and could have the top pick overall if the Buccaneers beat the Saints Sunday. For a team who will be in the market for a QB (I'm assuming), just being in the top 2 will ensure they could draft either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston without having to give up anything. Back in 2011 the Jaguars could have "let" the Colts win their Week 17 matchup, and we could be talking about a game that features no Andrew Luck, so it's an interesting play for the Colts here. If they try to win this week like they "tried" last week, it could drop the Titans a couple spots, forcing them to either have to give up other picks to move up, or go another direction, keeping the perpetual revolving door at the QB position for everyone in the AFC South, except for the Colts. They'd never, ever admit to doing it, and I think the chances are remote, but the probability isn't 0% that it'll happen.
For those of you who haven't followed the Titans' season (and who could blame you?), they had one of the more puzzling wins in Week 1, a 26-10 pounding of the Chiefs in Kansas City, lost four in a row, then beat the Jaguars at home in Week 6, and have lost nine straight since then. They've started three different quarterbacks (although the Colts will see the same guy they saw earlier in the season, Charlie Whitehurst, on Sunday), and they haven't played with any desire since their Monday night 27-24 loss to the Steelers, where they led 24-13 going into the 4th quarter before allowing two Pittsburgh TDs and losing. First year Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt has taken a bad team and somehow made them worse, but that's what happens when you don't have a quarterback: 2-13 happens.
This game is a mismatch on paper, but just where can the Colts expect to have success? Let's take a look at some numbers and find out.
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Titans (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||57.0%||12||55.6%||18||49.8%||23||63.9%||31|
|Avg Start Pos||29.7||20||27.8||5||28.2||26||31.1||26|
|3 and Outs||3.96||22||4.70||3||4.61||27||3.23||25|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.773||12||0.865||13||1.026||31||0.696||26|
Keys to the Game:
- Don't get anyone injured. Anybody who isn't close to 100% should not be playing for the Colts. Treat it like a Preseason game. Need everyone as healthy as possible for next week.
- On the field, the Titans are dead last in the Red Zone on both Offense and Defense. The Colts have been up and down all season in there, so some extra work (probably not as much on Defense) could work out well.
- The Titans pass defense isn't terrible (19th), but isn't that good either. In fact, the Steelers rank 31st, so this could be a good thing to have a little challenge for Luck and the passing game. Hopefully they can get themselves back on track.
- The Titans Defense is ok on 3rd/4th downs as well, but 18th isn't that much to write home about. It's one of their best rankings, however, so I thought it would be worth mentioning.
- No injuries. Did I mention that?
I think the Colts weren't meaning to get embarrassed like they did last week, and I think they'll try to put it to the Titans early (like in Week 4), then rest some players in the second half. This is a game where the Colts can work out some kinks in their Offense, and try some exotic blitzes on Defense, if only to confuse their opponent next weekend. The Colts have handled (pretty easily) most of the bad teams on their schedule, and I don't see any reason to think Sunday will be any different. I think it'll look closer than it actually was, as a late score by Tennessee makes it close.
Colts 26, Titans 20