The Colts open up as a 3-point favorite on the road in Nashville Sunday night.
I’m not going to pull any punches here, so I’ll just start by saying there’s no team I’d want to see less if I were a Tennessee Titan or Titans fan than a Luck-led Colts team given the history between the two franchises, and especially not with a trip to the Playoffs on the line in primetime on Sunday night.
At some point, though, you’ve got to get that monkey off your back if you’re the Titans, right?
Not this week.
Not this season.
Probably not as long as Luck is under center if we’re being serious about it and if I may be frank, as long as Marcus Mariota is wearing baby blue and navy — “That ain’t it”, as they say.
At the least, Titans QB Marcus Mariota is battling a stinger and it’s up in the air as to whether or not he’ll play on Sunday night. Marcus also left during the Colts game earlier this season and failed to finish last week’s game. Additionally, it appears Titans LBs Brian Orakpo and Sharif Finch will also be game time decisions. The Colts come into the game with the 7th ranked offense in the NFL, while the Titans are 27th in the league in total offense. The Colts are ranked 13th in total defense while the Titans are ranked 2nd in the league in total defense. Tendency tell us that teams with offense and defense ranked in the top half of the league tend to beat unbalanced teams.
Add to the fact that Mariota said he felt numb and tingly down his entire arm after a hit in last week’s game, prompting an early exit with a stinger and as a result, a Blaine Gabbert sighting, and things are coming up roses for the Horseshoe. This does not bode well for the Tennessee offense. Colts fans shudder at the memory of Gabbert’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts during his Jacksonville days. This week, Darius Leonard should be salivating at the opportunity to play against Gabbert again, who threw an interception to him in garbage time earlier this year when the Titans came to Indianapolis.
The Titans are coming in to this week having won their last four games and notably didn’t turn the ball over on offense in either of the last two games and the Titans defense came through with a pair of turnovers in each contest. If you watch my videos or read my other work, frequently I bring up that doing just that (maintaining possession of the football on offense and being opportunistic on defense) wins football games. RB Derrick Henry has turned into a world-beater and up until Marcus Mariota left the game last week with an injury, it appeared as though this Sunday would be a highly competitive football game with postseason potential for the winning team.
Bear in mind, though, that those four Titan wins in a row came against the Jets, Jaguars, Giants and Redskins. These are not exactly the most complete teams in the league. In fact, the average ranking of these four offenses is 25th. Talking up the Titan defense’s recent performances is a lot like when a boxer takes on a tomato. Sure, they won, but are you surprised or impressed? No? Well, then.
Meanwhile, the Colts have turned into streak-enders as of late, stopping the Texans 9-game winning streak and then followed that up by beating the Cowboys (then on a 5-game win streak) and then came back to beat a beleaguered Giants team (who had gone 4-2 over a 6-game stretch prior to that contest). There’s the notion that the Colts are the youngest team in the league if you take Vinny out of the equation and sure, the Titans will beat the Colts eventually anyway, right?
There’s a dimension in the Multiverse where the Colts lose this game (you know, like the Jacksonville game earlier this year), and yes, the Titan defense is very good. Also, Tennessee playing great defense is totally predictable because Mike Vrabel, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, is the head coach. Ravens fans know that yes, defense can get you to the championship, but you win games by scoring points on offense, something Tennessee isn’t very good at.
Just like many games prior to this one, the impetus is on the Colts to stop the Titan run game on defense and turn what should be good field position into points on offense. I expect a chippy, tightly-played and probably poorly-officiated contest, but barring nightmarish and unforeseen events, this Luck-led Colts team should come out victorious on Sunday night.
Then we can talk about bonus football. Until then, just like Frank, Andrew & Co. have said all year long, it’s all about going 1-0 this week.