Indianapolis Colts (3-3) +4, 42.5 O/U at Tennessee Titans (6-0) -4, 42.5 O/U, LP Field, Nashville, Tenn., 8:30 PM Eastern, Monday, ESPNby Badger of Predictem.com
If Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are going to get their swagger back and get back into the thick of the AFC playoff chase, they are going to have to do it by beating the undefeated Tennessee Titans on their home turf of LP Field in Nashville on Monday Night Football.
The Colts continued their “up one week – down the next week” trend they have been on so far in 2008, putting forth a lackluster effort in their, 34-14, loss at Green Bay last Sunday. The Colts loss to the Packers was both stunning and frustrating, as they looked as if they had finally turned the ship around the week before in their dominating, 31-3, victory over Baltimore.
This week the Colts face a very stiff test in the Titans, the NFLs only remaining undefeated team. Tennessee running backs LenDale White and Chris Johnson combined for over 300 yards rushing in their easy, 34-10, victory over Kansas City on Sunday. The Titans no doubt will be looking to land the knockout blow versus their AFC South rival Colts, as they already have a three-game lead in the division and a victory head-to-head on Monday Night Football would likely be a very big first step in clinching a division title.
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Oddsmakers opened the game with the Titans as 3.5-point favorites at home, but some early action on the Colts moved the number up to the Titans minus 4-points already. The over/under total opened at 42 and has stayed there or moved only slightly up to 42.5 at most offshore sportsbooks and the big books in Las Vegas.
One thing is for sure, Mondays game will feature two contrasting schemes on offense.
The Colts and Manning feature an offense that relies on a no-huddle, pass-happy scheme that is currently 7th best in the NFL at 244.8 passing yards per game. Without starting running back Joseph Addai (out with a hamstring), the Colts have lacked a strong ground game to balance the Colts attack and it shows with the leagues worst rushing totals (32nd – 70 ypg). When Manning gets in rhythm and receivers Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark get into their routes, the Colts can be as explosive as any team in football.
On the other sideline the Titans own one of the leagues top rushing offenses (4th – 153.8 ypg), and they are not afraid at all to run the ball for three plays, punt and play field-position football. Quarterback Kerry Collins took over for Vince Young in week two and has improved the Titans passing game a little (still just 26th – 160.7 ypg), but White and Johnson clearly carry the offensive load for the Titans and thats exactly the way head coach Jeff Fisher wants it.
When youve got the leagues best defense (1st in points allowed – 11 ppg), like Fisher does, why wouldnt you play smash-mouth football? The Minnesota Vikings scored 17 points on them back in week four, but otherwise teams have yet to get more than two touchdowns in a game on the Titans defense. For the season they are 5th in passing yards allowed (179 ypg) and 8th versus the run (89.5 ypg), to combine for a 268.5 yards per game average, the leagues 3rd-best yards allowed tally through six games.
If youre a Colts fan, on paper you have to cringe at the thought of the leagues 29th-worst run defense (153.7 ypg) going up against the Titans run-heavy offense. Indys defense has done a credible job of keeping teams out of the end zone (16th in points allowed – 21.8 ppg), but the Colts defense is built with speed and often breaks down when challenged at the point of attack.
In head-to-head play, these two teams have alternated wins the past two seasons for a 2-2 straight up series record. Prior to that, Indy won six in a row from 2003 to 2005 for an overall 8-2 record over the last 10 meetings.
But when you look at against the spread records it has been a tale of two streaks, as Indy won and covered all six meetings in the 03 to 05 seasons, but Tennessee has covered all four games the past two seasons. Interestingly, Indy has been the favorite in all but two of those 10 games, with Tennessees, 16-10, victory last December as 4- point favorites being the most recent game where the Titans were not underdogs.
This year the Titans are a perfect 6-0 ATS, while the Colts have faced higher expectations and the results are a 3-3 ATS record. Both teams are 3-3 versus the total in 2008.
Despite winning the AFC South numerous times in recent years, the Colts struggle to cover in the division, as they are just 3-9 ATS versus the AFC South in their last 12 games. The Titans are the exact opposite, going a stellar 10-1 ATS versus the AFC South in their last 11 games. However, the Colts are a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five appearances on Monday Night, so take that for what its worth.
Other NFL betting trends also favor the under in this game, with the under a strong 6-2 record in the last eight versus the AFC. The under has also cashed in at the window in six straight games in the head-to- head series.
Badgers Pick: The Ttans show the Colts that there’s a new kid in town, in a blowout fashion.