Indianapolis Colts (2-4 SU, 2-3-1 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date/Time: Sunday October 23rd at 1:00 PM EST
Where: Nissan Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IND +2.5 / TENN -2.5
Over/Under Total: 48.0
The Indianapolis Colts travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans in a Sunday afternoon matchup of AFC South rivals at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The Colts have dominated the series between the two teams in recent history, winning the last nine games while also having gone 14-1 over their last fifteen against the Titans.
Its not just the Titans that the Colts have had success against in the AFC South, its been the entire division that they have ran roughshod over, not only in recent years but also since the divisions inception. Overall the Colts have gone 73-30 against their fellow AFC Southians (23-6 vs. Houston, 29-14 vs. Tennessee and 21-10 vs. Jacksonville) since the league expanded to 32 teams/8 divisions in 2002, and in recent years they have done even better, posting a record of 16-4 against their division mates since the beginning of the 2013 season. While that record is certainly impressive, what is not so good is that they have put up a losing record in that same time span against the rest of the league, going just 19-20 as they follow their usual M.O. of getting wins against inferior competition but once they have to play the better teams they struggle to get past them.
Unfortunately for Colts fans, their above mentioned recent success against the AFC South seems to be coming to an end, as they now find themselves in last place in the division after choking away their game against the Texans last week to drop to 2-4. This was their second loss of the season against a divisional opponent and have now gone just 1-4 against the South in their last five contests. The 26-23 overtime loss against Houston could have a lasting effect, as they were up on the Texans 23-9 with 2:38 left in the game before their head coach Chuck Pagano again ran into issues with clock management and coaching common sense as his team grabbed defeat from the hands of victory and blew the two score lead. This appears to be a recurring theme for Pagano, who many were calling to be fired at the end of last season along with general manager Ryan Grigson, but instead they were given four year contract extensions by owner Jim Irsay and are now on the hook with two less than fan favorites running their organization. While both Pagano and Grigson have clearly struggled, it is their boss Irsay who deserves a lion share of the blame for his teams mostly lack of premium success. Despite landing the two highest rated quarterback prospects in over 30 years (Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck), the Colts regular season success has rarely translated into the postseason. While Irsay makes headlines for spending millions of his inherited money on various music memorabilia or whatever free agent might look good on paper, he has struggled to surround his signal calling stars with players capable of performing at their best when it matters most, and instead has a built a franchise heavy on stats but also marshmallow soft.
One positive sign from last weeks 4th quarter folding against Houston is that Frank Gore ran for 100 yards, becoming the first Colt player to do so in a 55 game span going back to 2012. You may wonder how a team could go so long without passing the century mark on the ground, but that mystery quickly disappears after watching the Colts porous offensive line perform for more than a play or two. They have struggled mightily in blocking for both the run and the pass and currently last in the NFL in sacks allowed with 23, which is four more than the nearest team behind them. Unfortunately their defense has been even worse and is currently 30th in yards allowed, 29th in passing, 25th in rushing, 28th in points allowed, 28th in sacks and tied for last in interceptions with just two. While their susceptibility to the pass may not be easy exploited by a Titans team that ranks just 29th in passing offense, they could be in for a long day against DeMarco Murray and the Tennessee rushing attack.
Murray found great success when playing for the Dallas Cowboys from 2011-2014 but after signing with the Eagles he played for only six weeks in 2015 thanks to a nagging hamstrung injury and was then traded to the Titans in the offseason as Philly tried to purge themselves off anything remotely reminding them of the short lived Chip Kelly era. DeMarco has since revitalized himself in Nashville and is currently averaging a second best in the NFL 4.9 yards per carry, is 3rd in the league in rushing yards with 526 and with both stats has led the Titans to the 3rd ranked rushing offense in the NFL. While the Colts defense ranks 25th against the run, they have also let up an average of 4.8 yards per carry, which puts them at an even worse 28th in the league. To slow down Murray the Colts will have to commit more defenders at the line of attack, which in turn could open things up for Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota as he tries to improve on his teams disappointing passing offense and look to find players open downfield, whether it be wide receivers Rishard Matthews, Kendall Wright and Tajae Sharpe, one of the NFLs best at tight end in Delanie Walker or even Murray himself in a play action scenario, as the star back leads the team in receptions with 24 on the season so far.
The cornerstone for the Titans on the other side of the ball remains linebacker Brian Orakpo, who ranks third in the NFL in sacks this year with 7 and leads all players in yards lost on sacks with 52. This marks the sixth time in the past eight seasons that Orakpo has recorded at least seven sacks, with the only two off years happening in 2012 and 2014 when he missed a majority of both due to injury, though some believe the time off was in fact separate suspensions as punishment for conduct detrimental to his team and the league for being in multiple, painful Geico Caveman commercials.
Considering their lack of heart history, it is difficult to go with the Colts after they suffered such a devastating choke loss against the Texans last week. The up and coming Titans are well aware how dominated they have been by Indy through the years and have their best chance in a while to take advantage of their slumping division rival and continue their resurgent season in hopes of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With Murray, Mariota and Orakpo leading the way I believe Tennessee will get the win and cover at home in Nashville, putting them at 4-3 on the year and in a strong position to put an end to their postseason drought, while also having the added benefit of seeing their record climb above .500 for the first time since September of 2012.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Tennessee -2.5
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