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Analyzing Colts Biggest Threats in the AFC: Tennessee Titans

Once an afterthought in the division, the Titans have now asserted themselves as an AFC powerhouse.

Tennessee Tiatns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Strengths

While the Chiefs have the best quarterback in the game, the Titans clearly have the best running back, and it is not even close. The Titans' success on offense relies solely on Derrick “King” Henry. Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards and added 17 scores, a year after putting up over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. Henry is just overpowered; he can stiff-arm grown men like ragdolls, he is absurdly fast for his massive frame, and he can handle the hits without any sign of attrition, as he has over 700 touches over the past two seasons. He also seems to really like playing against Indy, as he had over 100 yards in both matchups last season and got 3 scores at Lucas Oil Stadium (against an injury-ravaged Colts’ defense, but still a mighty feat). Next to Henry is Ryan Tannehill, who has enjoyed a career resurgence with the Titans, and is now an incredibly effective quarterback who benefits a lot from the play-action throws opposing defenses allow while overcommitting to stop Henry. A.J Brown has also emerged as a true #1 receiver and will continue to lead the Titans’ receiving core.

The Titans’ defense is really well-coached and has some disruptive defensive players, like Jeffery Simmons, newly signed Bud Dupree, Kevin Byard, and Harold Landry, while linebacker Jayon Brown is coming back from injury, and the team also drafted cornerback Caleb Farley, who could be a steal in the latter part of the first round, and added a rotational lineman in former Colt Denico Autry.

The Titans also seem to have found their kicker in Stephen Gostowski, who got better and better as the season progressed, while punter Brett Kern has been elite for over a decade.


Weaknesses

For all their signings, the Titans lost a lot of starters in the off-season. On the offensive side of the ball, the Titans lost #2 receiver Corey Davis, starting tight end Jonnu Smith, and swing tackle Dennis Kelly. On the defensive side, the Titans lost cornerback Adoree Jackson, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, nose tackle DaQuan Jones, cornerback Malcolm Butler, and safety Kenny Vaccaro. How the team will perform with such turnover on the roster remains to be seen, but a slump could be reasonable for a team that seems to have over-achieved during the past couple of seasons.

The Titans' most glaring weakness is how much their offensive success relies on Derrick Henry. Banking on a player that has had a massive workload over the past two seasons to remain fully healthy has not been the smartest choice in recent history. Sure, Henry is built differently than anyone else, but if he misses significant time, then the Titans' offense will surely collapse as Tannehill will not be able to abuse the play-action and facing stacked boxes.

Other than that, I am not entirely sold on the Titans defense just yet and think they will really struggle to contain opposing offenses. They seem like a solid team against the run, but their secondary is really suspect and is what will keep this defense from becoming elite.


How they match up with the Colts

The Colts were excellent last season stopping the run, and I expect the team to be even better at it this season with the addition of Kwity Paye in the draft and solid rotational players via free agency. Henry has enjoyed success in the past against the Colts, but I expect Eberflus to figure him out this year and manage to keep him in check. If the Colts’ defense manages to contain Henry, then the Titans' offense will sputter, giving plenty of chances for the Colts’ offense to operate.

Establishing the run game might be tricky against such a talented front, but I expect the passing game led by Wentz to enjoy a lot of success against a new Titans secondary that will have no chemistry at all.

All in all, I expect the Colts’ historical dominance over the Titans to return this year and put little brother to sleep once again.