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2015 NFL Week 17 Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans

The final game of the 2015 Colts season has them pitted against a team who, with a loss, will have the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft next season. The catch for the Colts? Their starting quarterback is going to be a guy who either hasn't taken a snap in the NFL this season, or ever in his career. Easy to figure this game out then, huh?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Week 17 of the NFL season is the one week of the year that seems to get overshadowed by College Football, thanks to all the bowl games and now the Playoff. It makes it hard to focus back on the NFL and get ready for an almost meaningless game in Indianapolis Sunday when the Titans come to Lucas Oil Stadium to finish of the 2015 season against the Colts.

I say almost meaningless because of two reasons: one, we know about the nine games that have to go in the Colts favor for them to win the AFC South (and a scenario where the tie-breaker goes even farther than Strength of Schedule, which the Colts will most likely lose but would be a good story); and second that the Titans are in line to have the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft if they were to lose Sunday, coming off a year where they had the #2 overall pick. We all know about the 2011 Colts going to Jacksonville in Week 17 and if they had won they would have picked #2, but the Jaguars beat them and the Colts secured Andrew Luck. Obviously there is nobody of that caliber at QB this year, and the Titans seemingly have their guy in Marcus Mariota, but that doesn't mean some team won't trade up and give them a king's ransom to draft a guy they love. One non-QB will be much better for the Colts long term than several guys, including what I'm sure would be multiple first rounders.

Speaking of Mariota we won't be seeing him on the field Sunday, as he suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against the Patriots and has been ruled out already by Head Coach Mike Mularkey. In his place will be Zach Mettenberger, a guy they drafted two seasons ago that played sparingly in 2014 (started six games) and has started three games this year, including last week's 34-6 blowout loss to the Texans. He's yet to win a game as a starter, but this Colts team let Brandon Weeden win a game against them a couple of weeks ago, so anything's possible. That's especially true when...

The Colts QB situation is such a cluster right now. I mean it's ridiculous. As we currently sit, they have five QBs on their active roster. Five. They refuse to put Andrew Luck on IR because I think they are physically incapable of admitting their QB is seriously injured (see: Manning, Peyton in 2011); Matt Hasselbeck has also been ruled out for this week, has basically been injured all over his body the last month, but they won't just shut him down. So they've brought in Josh Freeman (who hasn't taken a snap since 2013), Ryan Lindley (who was atrocious in Arizona last year), and Stephen Morris, who has never played a snap in his NFL career. This might just be the ugliest game in NFL history.

In their first meeting of the season the Colts jumped out to a 14-0 lead, let the Titans score 27 straight, then scored 21 straight of their own, before giving up a TD with less than a minute remaining but stopping the two point conversion, winning 35-33, giving the Colts their first win of the season, and the first time this season Chuck Pagano was almost fired. The comeback started with a 98 yard TD drive, their longest of the season, and is really hard to imagine them doing that again. Right now, getting 40 yards on a drive would be great with who they'll be trotting out there Sunday.

We'll look at some stats, but you have to take the Offensive stats with a silo of salt, as these teams are nothing like when their starters are in there.

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Titans (Adjusted):

Statistic Colts Titans
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 66.5% 26 71.3% 22 65.3% 30 71.8% 24
ANPY/A 4.205 31 6.215 23 4.728 28 6.789 27
Turnovers 2.23 31 1.77 12 2.46 32 1.39 25
Yds/Drive 26.23 26 32.34 25 24.68 31 29.90 15
ToP/Drive 2:32.0 24 2:46.0 23 2:30.0 25 2:52.0 28
Yds/Play 4.752 31 5.574 26 4.864 28 5.377 21
Orange Zone Eff 54.0% 19 54.9% 18 48.6% 30 62.7% 28
First Downs/Drive 1.60 22 1.74 21 1.47 30 1.72 18
3rd/4th Down 39.4% 15 43.0% 27 31.2% 29 42.8% 26
Avg Start Pos 28.6 21 29.3 13 27.7 27 32.0 30
3 and Outs 4.40 28 3.15 24 4.23 25 3.61 17
RZ Eff 64.0% 17 69.6% 23 51.5% 32 69.9% 24
Plays/Drive 5.570 20 5.784 22 5.065 31 5.553 11
Penalty Yds / Play 0.818 18 1.012 3 0.680 2 0.863 15
RB Success 41.9% 26 43.5% 15 37.3% 30 46.5% 23
Yds/Carry 3.92 21 4.33 22 3.78 26 4.00 12
Overall 26 21 32 23

Keys to the Game:

  • Since the Offenses will be bad on both sides (although they're both bad to begin with), we're going to focus on the Defenses, other than to point out that these two teams are the two worst teams at turning the ball over, so a Defensive TD could be huge in this game.
  • The Titans Defense is towards the bottom of the league in Starting Position, which is a good sign for the Colts. The closer they start to field goal range, the better.
  • The Titans do have a couple above-average stats in Yards per Drive, and Plays per Drive, but that could play into the field position stat (teams don't have to go as far to score), or they score quickly (I'm ok with a one play drive on a long TD).
  • Rush Defense for both teams I'd call "average to below average", and with what we assume will be bad QB play, we'll probably see a lot of running the ball. If either team can be successful running the ball, they'll probably win the game.
  • The Colts haven't been great on 3rd/4th down the last few weeks, and I fear this is where the Colts will fail if they don't win Sunday. Get them off the field, get good field position, and hope Adam Vinatieri nails his field goals.

This will undoubtedly be the last game for Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis, as even if the Colts extend an offer to him, without a new General Manager he's not accepting anything. I know if his players loved him as much as they say they do, they'd have played better in other games this year, but I expect max effort against a team that's lacking in talent in numerous places, and hasn't been competitive in many games this season. There aren't going to be many points, but I think the Colts will end up with more because their Defense is slightly better than the Titans and they can force Turnovers, which will be a common theme throughout. I'm thinking these two Offense will set back football 20 years.

Colts 9, Titans 3