To many, Sunday’s matchup against Tennessee is crucial as the Colts look to keep pace with their division rival.
Sitting at 3-4 on the season and winners of two straight games, Indy will look to get to .500 on the season with a victory over the Titans. Here are my bold predictions for Sunday’s game.
- The Colts will hold Derrick Henry to less than 100 rushing yards
This will be easier said than done, I know. The Colts’ defense, which is surrendering a modest 111 rushing yards per game, looks to dethrone ‘King Henry’ on Sunday, who currently leads the NFL in rushing yards with 869 and rushing touchdowns with 10.
Henry’s had the Colts’ number each time these teams have met over the last couple of seasons, as the bruising back has averaged 119.7 rushing yards in 6 games as a starter versus Indy. When these teams met back in Week 3, Henry rushed for 114 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
With several key defensive starters set to return on Sunday, I like the Colts’ chances to keep Henry under 100 total rushing yards.
- The Colts’ defense will force a turnover for a fifth straight week
It’s no secret the Colts have struggled as a defense throughout the first seven weeks of the season. While they’re not nearly as dominant as they were in 2020, they’ve slowly begun to improve over the last couple of games.
Part of the reason we’ve seen such improvement is due to the rate at which Indy is forcing turnovers. As it currently stands, they are tied with the Buffalo Bills for most turnovers forced this season with 16.
Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill gift-wrapped a few turnovers last time these teams squared off, throwing two interceptions that ultimately helped keep Indy afloat during the game. Now much healthier on both sides of the ball, the Colts are hoping it doesn’t have to come to that in order to keep the game in reach.
Limiting Henry will be the key, as that would force Tannehill to do more than what’s typically asked of him and could lead to the same kind of mistakes we saw during these teams’ Week 3 matchup.
- Jonathan Taylor will outrush Derrick Henry
There’s a reason Jonathan Taylor is second in the NFL in rushing yards this season with 579. Over the last four weeks specifically, the second-year back has quite literally helped carry Indy’s offense, including multiple 100-yard rushing performances in three of his last four games.
Taylor is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has found the end zone five times over the last four games, too. The second-year back has been a big reason why the Colts' offense has been as balanced as it has throughout the last four games, and they’ll likely turn to their star back often on Sunday.
Tennessee’s defense currently ranks 9th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game with 103.3, but surrender over ten yards more than their overall total when on the road this season.
One other major factor is the likely return of right tackle Braden Smith, who hasn’t seen an offensive snap since Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams. Smith’s return would be a major boost to the Colts’ run game, as it would mark the first time the Colts’ five starters along the offensive line have been healthy this season.
- The Colts find a way to earn their 4th win of the season
The pendulum could swing in either direction tomorrow. A win would increase the Colts’ chances at making the playoffs by quite a bit while a loss would make a wildcard run extremely difficult moving forward.
Sunday’s matchup is about as even as it gets, but the Colts need the win more than the Titans do and they’re much healthier this time around than they were five weeks ago. That’s going to make a difference in my mind.
Simply, these are the kinds of games the Colts have to win to be in playoff contention moving forward. They cannot afford to lose at home — not with as well as they’ve been playing, and not with the team being as healthy as it’s been all season.
Similar to last week, I believe the Colts’ offense will find a way to make a few more key plays than Tennessee’s when it matters most, earn a 4th victory in the last five weeks, and move to 4-4 on the season.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Colts are 3-point favorites against the Titans this week.