On October 16, 2017, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, to battle the division rival Tennessee Titans. In this week six match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea for what we’re up against.
Coming off of a 9-7 season in 2016, the Titans hope to build on the success they’ve found in star quarterback Marcus Mariota and the legs of their impressive stable of running backs. Last season our Colts swept the series, jumping out to early leads and keeping pace the rest of the way. A lot has changed in one short off season for our Colts and how that will impact the game is yet to be determined. Let’s figure out what we can expect in week six.
Punter: Brett Kern has a big leg
I know what you’re thinking and no, he doesn’t literally have a larger than normal leg. What he does have is a 50 yard per punt average on the season. He has a net average of 47.5 yards per. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to down the ball inside the 20 as our own Rigoberto Sanchez, but Kern can flip the field in a hurry.
He’s a good punter who might see a lot of action Monday night. He might out kick his coverage at times and give Quan Bray a chance to return a few. I doubt that will amount to much but if the 2017 Indianapolis Colts have shown us anything, it’s that anything could happen and nothing is consistent. Fun.
In my research it turns out there’s another guy named Brett Kern that does some pretty cool things too. It is in no way football related but the “other” Kern is worth checking out if you’ve got a minute to devote to something else.
Kicker: Ryan Succop has a consistent leg
Ryan Succop is an example of a guy who flamed out with one team and completely turned his career around when given a second chance.
Originally selected in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Succop played five seasons in the city of fountains where he went a combined 119 for 147 on field goals tries, averaging just 78.6% made in his final season in KC.
In his 3.25 seasons in Tennessee, Succop has gone a combined 65 for 73. Hitting 89% of your kicks is no small feat and 2016 saw the veteran kicker make a career high 91.7% of his field goal tries. If the game comes down to a last-second kick, there aren’t many guys I would want the Colts to face less. Except for Adam Vinatieri, I’m glad Vini is on our team.
Returner: Adoree' Jackson
Two weeks in a row the Colts have faced a dangerous punt returner. Last week was Trent Taylor. This week another shifty rookie will look to make a play on special teams.
- Adoree' Jackson is good at this:
As of the time of this writing Jackson is third in the league averaging 12.7 yards per return. Our own Quan Bray is averaging 3.9 yards per return. Ouch.
To be fair the Titans are putting their top 20 draft pick in harms way every time he returns a kick or punt.
On the other side of that, these guys are football players, nothing is guaranteed and any one of them could end their careers with a freak accident on or off the field. With that said, I would rather have a guy like Bray back there than Malik Hooker. Not that Hooker is an option but from a value to the team standpoint we can replace Bray on offense and not see a drop off. Replacing Hooker for our defense, even after only playing 5 games as a pro ... not so much.
Either way, Monday night the Titans will send out the guy they hope will become their franchise CB1 to return both punts and kicks. He’s an electric athlete that has good balance and can make people miss. I don’t want good things for the future of the Titans in general, with that said, I pray Jackson isn’t hurt on special teams against us or anyone else. Would be a real shame.
Wildcards of the game
These are the “if” guys of our match-up. If they live up to the hype, draft position, or past success they could impact the game in a big way. This week I believe the biggest wildcards are nose tackle Sylvester Williams and left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Last week we saw Ryan Kelly battle against a pair of young and talented defensive tackles and he did so at a high level. This week we’ll watch him try to handle a round mound of a run-stopping man. Williams is a good nose tackle and Kelly’s ability to handle him one-on-one will be vital over the course of the game.
If our young center is up to the task, it will mean the guards and tackles will be available to focus their attention elsewhere. It means there’s a chance a guard or tackle has a chance to actually make it to the second level to try to block someone. This isn’t a sexy match up to watch but it will be an important one to the outcome of the game.
I know what you’re thinking, “Really? Taylor Lewan? Another Lineman? I thought this guy was good?”
He is good, but based on what I saw he could be better. It’s not that there is any aspect of his game that makes me question his ability, he’s generally solid. The reason he winds up on my wildcard list is due to effort.
I noted it on Tuesday when we looked at the Titans offense, when the run is going away from Lewan, based on my viewing of the tape, he allows the backside defender to be relevant in the result of the play far too often.
For the first time in quite some time, I feel as though the Colts have several average to above-average players in our front seven. This Titans ground game could absolutely dismantle our defense, and Lewan’s ability to control the back side on run plays could mean the difference from a 4-yard run and a 60-yard run. Finally our DE’s and OLB’s are good enough to make that play, especially if a guy like Lewan is loafing. He’s a guy to watch in the Titans run game.
Final Thoughts for The Week
The Titans have been trending in the right direction for the past year. They appear to have a bright future as long as their young signal caller can stay healthy. With that said, it’s of little surprise that I believe the outcome of this game hinges almost completely on Marcus Maroita’s ability to play on Monday night.
If he can go and play near the level that we’re used to seeing from the young man, this one is going to be tough for the Colts to pull out.
If he can’t go, the Titans still might be able to control the ball and the clock and we could be in for a low-scoring affair with a lot of field goals and a general stinker on Monday Night Football.
That’s not how I see this one going, however, but stranger things have happened.
This is with the assumption Mariota does not play. Flip the score if he does suit up.
This segment will keep an eye on our draft positioning as the year progresses. No, I’m not suggesting that we throw the season or that we should all look forward to the draft. Rather I hope that this will allow us all to be aware of next off-season and realize how much our 2018 outlook can change from week to week.
I would like to point out a really cool site that covers the NBA, NHL and NFL: Tankathon. It has a funny name but it serves a cool purpose, weeding out tie breakers to show who is slated to draft where.
2018 Colts Draft Position Post Week Three:
Well, 6th overall is progress. After our week 2 game against the Cardinals we had a coin flip for the 1st overall pick and post week 3 we managed to get “up” to the 6th overall slot. A week 4 loss to the Seahawks put us in another coin flip situation for the 5th overall pick. A win last week against a rebuilding 49ers team has given us sole ownership of the 6th overall selection.
A week ago I was pretty sure we were going to claw our way out of a top 10 pick. I still feel that is possible but it all hinges on the availability of Andrew Luck. If he can play in the next month we still have that chance.
Without Luck, looking at our schedule the only games that I feel are possible wins are @ the Titans, @ the Bengals, vs the Steelers and @ the Ravens. Granted “any given Sunday” is a saying for a reason, these are games I could see us pulling out and even these aren’t easy games. With Luck everything changes, without him this could be a 6-10 kind of a team and likely wil earn us that top 10 selection ... ugh.