Online Sportsbooks Move Colts from 3 to 3.5 vs. Titans
Indianapolis Colts (9-6 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 30, 8:20 PM EST
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tn.
By Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ind -3½ / Ten + 3½ (Shop Online Sportsbooks due to widely different pricing)
Over/Under Total: 45
The Indianapolis Colts travel to Music City for a week 17 AFC South showdown with their division rival Tennessee Titans. All the chips are on the table this week as the winner will earn a playoff berth while the loser packs their bags and starts planning for 2019. Tennessee comes into the game with quarterback Marcus Mariota banged up, which is contributing to Indy being a 3½ point road favorite. The play is to lay the points against your sportsbook and play the Colts. Below are 3 reasons.
As mentioned it is very important that bettors shop their online sportsbook so they don’t pay 10-15 cents too much here. Some betting sites are leaning to the Colts off the 3.5 while others to the Titans. We can also expect bookmakers to be moving the line continuously on this one up until game time. An NFL game that has a spread hovering near a field goal will be sensitive to public volume action as well as wise guy betting.
The Colts are the Hotter Team
Both of these teams come into week 17 playing well. After starting the season at 5-6, Tennessee has won their last 4 games to reach this pivotal game. Their 4 wins were against some of the weaker teams the team sends out on Sundays and while we can’t fault a team for who their opponents are, we can be careful not to over react to wins against the Redskins, Jags and both New York teams. The Titans have only covered in 2 of contests, failing to reward their bettors in last week’s game against the Redskins and against the Jets in week 13. Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur has put the offense on Derrick Henry’s shoulders and he has responded with 492 yards and 7 touchdowns in the last 3 games. Henry was held under 100 yards by Washington, and the Colts will be fully prepared for the rejuvenated Titan rushing attack.
The Colts won only 1 of their first 6 contests and seemed on their way to another top 5 draft pick. Since week 6, they have won 8 of 9 games including wins against the Texans and Cowboys who are both leading their divisions in weeks 14 & 15. They looked shaky last week against the Giants but were able to find a way to win to set up this winner take all game. In their 8 wins during the streak, Indy has proven they can win in a multitude of ways. The running game carried the load against Dallas and also had over 200 yards against the Bills and Raiders, and Luck proved he can still deliver wins by a combination of short passes to move the chains and deep passes to T.Y. Hilton.
The Colts have the Best Player on the Field
This game has been flexed to the Sunday Night slot, so the bright lights will be shining on Nashville meaning the biggest stars will have their chance to shine. Looking at each team, Indy has the brighter stars that we should expect to make the biggest impact. Andrew Luck is a lock to win Comeback Player of the Year, and probably will be top 5 in MVP balloting. After missing the 2017 campaign with a shoulder injury, Luck has continuously played better as the season has unfolded. He is currently completing over 67% of his passes which is the best in his career and his 7.1 yards per attempt which is in line with his career mark. First year coach Frank Reich has installed an offense that allows Luck to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and as the year has progressed, he has taken more shots down the field. Luck was considered a top 5 quarterback when his shoulder sidelined him, and he is again playing at that level.
From a quarterback standpoint Luck will battle Mariota in week 17. Mariota has continuously battled a nerve injury in his elbow this season, and it has caused him to be very inconsistent. However, even when healthy he has not taken the step forward in 2018 the Titans were hoping for. Tennessee is 29th in passing yards, and Mariota is averaging less than 200 yards per game to go with only 11 touchdowns. Mariota suffered a stinger last week and is expected to play this week but will probably be less than 100%. Blaine Gabbert will be ready in the bullpen if needed. Gabbert has performed well when called on, but he is a backup because he hasn’t been able to win big games. The Titan receivers are led by Corey Davis who can be dynamic, but they don’t have enough weapons for either of these quarterbacks to carry the Titans.
Andrew Luck has fought back from an injury that kept him on the sidelines for a year listening to the pundits pontificate that he will never be the same. He will have the opportunity to again establish himself as an elite quarterback this week and throughout the post season. If it comes down to Luck or Mariota, Luck is a much better investment.
The Colts have the Best Defense
Over the last few weeks the NFL has looked more like our father’s NFL where defense really matters. The 2 defenses that will be on the field on Sunday night are very similar. The Colts allow 5.4 yards per play while the Titans allow 5. 3 and both teams have recorded 38 sacks. Indy’s defense has 8 more takeaways than do the Titans which could be the difference in this game. The Colt defense has also played better as the season has progressed, allowing only 10 points and less than 300 yards per game in the 5 contests prior to last week’s game against the Giants. Linebacker Darius Leonard is making his case to be the defensive rookie of the year averaging 11 tackles per game.
The Titan defense has only allowed 12 points over the last 4 games, but in the two games prior to that they allowed 36 per game in losses to the Colts and Texans. Tennessee has had success against quarterbacks like Cody Kessler and Josh Johnson, but it wasn’t the same against Deshaun Watson or Andrew Luck. When the Titans only focus is on stopping the run game their defense is effective but that will not the case this week when they face the well rounded Colts. The Colts defense will be the better unit in this contest and should be able to limit the Titans better than the Titan D can stop the Colts.
Play the Favorite in Music City
Laying points to a Titan team that has been very successful as a home underdog in 2018 is a little risky. But the Colts have the best quarterback, the best defense and are one of the hotter teams in the league. Indy handily beat the Titans in week 9 by 28 points. Tennessee’s recent formula of riding Henry on the ground will be challenged this week as the Colts can sell out to stop the run and make either an injury limited Mariota or a talent limited Gabbert beat them through the air. Play the Colts -2½ on Sunday Night Football.
A Case for Betting the Under
Under 45 is also a strong play in this game. These teams will naturally be a little conservative coming into this game and both teams tend to play slow at around 60 plays per game. Although both coaches have shown a willingness to roll the dice to win games late in the 4th quarter, field position will be at a premium and both teams will not want to risk giving away a short field and easy points. Play Under 45 with confidence in this game.