The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are in Lucas Oil Stadium and are getting ready to play what amounts to a playoff game. Both teams sit at 6-5 with the division leading Houston Texans at 7-4 taking on the super bowl favorite New England Patriots in prime-time.
When the NFL schedules its games each year this is the kind of match-up they hope to create; a late season division match-up between two good teams with huge playoff implications. While the league office might be happy with the AFC South as a competitive division the Colts and their fans would feel much better about today’s game had they been able to pull off last weeks game against the Texans.
Today we’ll take a look at the match-ups that have a chance to decide this week 13 divisional battle.
1. The Colts defense against Ryan Tannehill
When the Colts took on these Titans in week 2 they were being held down by extremely sub-par play from the quarterback position. Normally, if you’re playing in week 2 and your starting quarterback isn’t injured, the chance that you’ll be able to upgrade the position nonexistent. Thanks to the Miami Dolphins, that wasn’t true for those hapless Titans.
Since Tannehill has taken over as the full time starter he’s led the Titans to a 4-1 record while averaging more than 29 points per game. In Marcus Mariota’s six starts they only managed to win 2 games while averaging 16 points per game.
It’s difficult to state just how much more effective Tannehill has been.
However today he will face the best defense he will have started against this season, specifically inside the red zone where the Colts have been particularly stingy for most of the year.
2. The Colts offensive line against the Titans front seven
The strength of both teams lies in the trenches. The Colts offensive line, despite any struggles they may have had of late, remains the strongest unit on the offense and this week they match up against the strongest front seven the AFC South has to offer.
The Titans have long struggled to put together a competent roster but that isn't true of their young and very talented group up front. Long led by veteran star Jurrell Casey the Titans got back first round pick Jeffery Simmons from a torn ACL he suffered before the 2019 NFL combine. Simmons has yet to light up the stat sheet but by all accounts he is playing well. It will be interesting to see how he does against Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski as the game progresses.
3. The Colts defense against Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry started his NFL career in an unspectacular fashion. The former second round pick failed to win a large role in the offense in his rookie year behind veteran DeMarco Murray. His second year he struggled in a stagnant offensive system.
Year three saw the implementation of an outside zone run system that the former Heisman Trophy winner has excelled in. Henry is currently in the top five in rushing yards this season and after a massive day against the Jaguars in week 12 the oversized runner doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.
The Colts defense comes in having given up the seventh fewest rushing yards on the year. This game will be one of strength versus strength on both sides of the ball for both teams.
This game will likely be decided in the trenches and in years past games like this it almost always a foregone conclusion that our Colts were at a disadvantage in the trenches. 2019 hasn't gone as anyone had expected but being able to point to the trenches on both sides of the ball for the Colts shows how effective Chris Ballard has been at implementing his vision, even though he probably never guessed this timeline exactly.
This should be a close game from start to finish and these Titans finally appear to be a worthy opponent.
Enjoy the game, Colts fans.