Indianapolis Colts (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (6-2)
Odds for Thursday Night Football
Spread: Titans -2
Moneyline: Colts +115/Titans -130
After a surprising run to the AFC Championship game last season, the Tennessee Titans have proven thus far that last year’s success was no fluke. At 6-2 at the halfway point, Mike Vrabel’s squad is atop the AFC South.
A win on Thursday night against their closest challenger for the division title would be huge. The Colts missed a great opportunity for a big win last Sunday, squandering a halftime lead at home against the Baltimore Ravens. But at 5-3, the division and the playoffs are within their reach as the page turns to the second half of the season.
Who will take the win in this showdown between AFC South rivals? Will the Colts pick up a big road win to tie things up at the top? Or will the Titans come out on top and put some further distance between themselves and the rest of the division?
Key Factor and Figures
Which Phillip Rivers will show up? Rivers has performed far better against teams that currently have losing records.
Vs. teams at or above .500 (3 games): 62 for 105 (59%), 660 yards, TD, 3 INT
Vs. teams below .500 (5 games): 124 for 169 (73%), 1427 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT
The Titans are near the bottom of the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (275 – tied for 28th) and passing touchdowns (19 – tied for 27th). Part of that is being in some shootouts and having their opponents playing catch-up in a few games. But if Rivers can find his groove and avoid the turnovers that killed Indy’s hopes to beat the Ravens, the Colts will be in this one all the way.
Can the Titans Break Down One of the League’s Best Defenses? Over the last couple of decades, a prolific offense has been the Colts’ calling card. This year, however, the chief reason the Colts are in the playoff picture is their stout defense.
Points Allowed Per Game: 20.0 (3rd)
Total Yards Per Game: 290.0 (1st)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 83.6 (3rd)
Passing Yards Per Game: 206.4 (3rd)
Interceptions: 11 (tied for 1st)
First Downs Allowed: 143 (1st)
Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson was shut down in the first half last Sunday, but the game turned in the second half when a takeaway was followed by a giveaway on the next play. From there, a gradually gassed defense couldn’t hold. In the first 18:52 of the second half, the Colts’ defense was on the field for 17:33.
Patience and possession will be key for Tennessee. That means the run game has to be successful. Derrick Henry will be in for a challenge, but he has historically done well against the Colts. In his last six games against them, he has run for 580 yards (on 98 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.
1st half total over 23.5: In the Titans’ eight games, the first half has seen 24 points or more. In the eight games that have been played on Thursday nights this year, there has been only one in which fewer than 24 points were scored in the first half. On a short turnaround following games where both teams lost the time of possession battle, this one looks rather tasty.
Phillip Rivers over 23.5 completions: Rivers has crossed this mark only three times this year, but only Seattle ranks lower than Tennessee in pass attempts allowed per game and completions allowed per game. The Colts’ run game has not really flourished, so Rivers is likely to be throwing early and often, especially if he’s playing from behind.
Ryan Tannehill over 1.5 touchdown passes: In eight games, Tannehill has thrown at least two touchdowns seven times. That’s a trend that makes this one worth backing, even against a tough defense. Against tough defenses vs. Chicago and Pittsburgh, he had multiple touchdown tosses.
Jordan Wilkins over 31.5 rushing yards is also worth a look. Wilkins has 31 carries in the last two games and should get his share of opportunities, and he will be eager to make the most of the trip back to his home state.
Road teams have fared well on Thursday nights this season. But the Titans are a strong team at home, posting a 4-1 mark. And this is a short turnaround for Indy after a taxing game against the Ravens.
The Titans have played a lot of close games, with six of their eight games decided by seven points or less. This should be another tight one, but the Titans will pull it out at home. Take the moneyline instead of the spread to avoid a sweat.