Here we are in week 6. The Colts have been abjectly bad through most of this season so far. The only wins on the schedule have been against teams who are a combined 0-10. That doesn’t speak highly of this team’s capabilities. But that doesn’t matter now, because the AFC South, and really most of the AFC, has been underwhelming too. This week the Colts go to Tennessee to take on the Titans in what is the most important game of the season for them. That is not hyperbole. The Colts are 1 game back in the division and so far, they have a perfect divisional record, because, you know, they haven’t played any divisional games yet.
The point is, whatever dumpster fire it has been prior to this week, the Colts have kept themselves in contention and have a chance at a fresh start. If they win this game in Tennessee, they put themselves in great position once they get Andrew Luck back, which sounds like it might be something we see happen within the next couple of weeks. That makes this game absolutely critical, and it means just as much to the Titans. With that said, let’s take a look at some bold predictions for this game.
Marlon Mack has 2 touchdowns and 150 yards from scrimmage
Is this that bold? Mack looked like if he had been used correctly he would have been able to do this or more last week, and our own Brett Mock broke down film on how the Colts missed opportunities with him as well. This week though, I think he is utilized to a greater degree. What is more, this Titans roster showed against Deshaun Watson that they are vulnerable through the air, and that means they cannot tee off against the run. With the second week of Ryan Kelly back on the field and the likely return of Jack Doyle to bolster the midfield passing threat, I think Mack can do damage both in the running game and as a screen pass option. While he looked good against the 49ers, I think this game against the Titans is the one where he really breaks out and shows just how good he can be.
Colts secondary does not allow a passing touchdown
This is the first week where we have the real possibility of seeing our entire secondary, less Clayton Geathers, make its debut. I’ve broken down film and expressed how high I am on Quincy Wilson, but all our rookie defensive backs have been solid contributors. With Vontae Davis healthy as well, I think we could see this group have a field day, whether Marcus Mariota starts or Matt Cassel does.
Marcus Mariota is the best starting quarterback in the division until Andrew Luck gets back on the field, but he is recovering from a hamstring injury which will hamper his movement. That is one of the things that makes him successful, and without it, good coverage in the secondary will make it harder for him to avoid pressure and get the ball out. I think he will have a tough time and that will force the Titans to rely on their running game, which is an area of strength for this Colts defense.
Colts score more than 10 in the second half
Second half point differential has been critical to the Colts this season. They have lost it in all but their last game. I think this game continues on their positive point differential and starts righting the ship. I am predicting this as a very good defensive effort anyway for the Colts, but they have struggled because of the stagnant offense and from being put in off-man coverage looks that don’t play to their strengths. I think they improve there against this Titans team, and I think the Colts offense doesn’t sputter and struggle as they have in the second half much of this season. T.Y. Hilton has been heating up as the season has progressed and has played well consistently against the Titans in the past. He and Brissett look to be building chemistry, and the Titans are ranked 30th in touchdowns allowed. All that adds up to more success for this Colts offense throughout the game.
John Simon gets back to creating turnovers
Simon proved to be one of the Colts’ most disruptive forces on the defense during the preseason. While he has been consistently playing well, he has not had the same game-changing impact and been a bit quieter recently. This week that changes. With the full complement of defensive backs available, look for Ted Monachino to turn his linebackers loose to get after the quarterback. I think Simon makes himself a major factor in the outcome of this game and reminds us all what a good signing he was.
Malik Hooker gets another pick
Thus far in the season, Hooker is all alone atop the rookie class in interceptions with 3. Don’t expect him to relinquish that lead this week. He is not a perfect safety, and he has certainly got room for improvement, but he has consistently lived up to the reputation of being a difference-making ball hawk and a rangy safety who can get himself in position to make plays. His Monday Night Football debut is going to be a big one, and a lot of GM’s will have to watch with regret a guy they let drop all the way to the Colts.