Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
The Titans pulled off a huge home upset victory over the Green Bay Packers last week, which shifted this line from 4 in favor of the host Indianapolis Colts on the early line last week down to 3 this week, a significant shift considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Typically, I like to fade significant line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play and I also tend to fade teams coming off of home upset victories, as teams are just 59-79 ATS off of a home victory as underdogs since 2012. However, the Titans have been at the top of my underrated teams list pretty much all season and I think even after last week’s statement victory they remain underrated. Most seem to be attributing Tennessee’s win to Green Bay not being good anymore, but it’s Tennessee’s rise, not Green Bay’s supposed fall that should be the story from that game.
Despite 5-5 record, the Titans enter this game 3rd in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +13 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +61 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 33 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 21 allowed by their defense, a +12 differential that is best in the NFL. This line still suggests these two teams are even, but that’s far from the case.
Part of that is because the Colts are overrated. People remember them beating the Packers in Green Bay before their bye, but that was largely because of long returns on special teams. The Packers lost the first down rate battle by 9.50% against the Titans, but won by 5.20% against the Colts. Prior to that, the Colts were blown out at home 31-13 by a Chiefs team that has scored just one offensive touchdown in 2 games since. On the season, despite a few wins, the Colts rank just 29th in first down rate differential, thanks to a defense that is allowing the highest first down rate in the league. Outside of special teams, this hasn’t been a good Indianapolis team this season.
Prior to the Chiefs game, the Colts did beat the Titans 34-26 in Tennessee, but the Titans have still been a lot better on the season. Also, that loss puts the Titans in a good spot here, as divisional road underdogs are 60-32 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites. Comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. These teams aren’t even comparable, so the Titans should have a great chance of evening the season series. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Titans don’t really have much of a homefield advantage, so the fact that this is a road game for them isn’t that big of a deal. Since 2010, the Titans have been outscored by 5 points per game on the road and 3 points per game at home, suggesting their homefield advantage has been worth about a point over that time period.
The Titans are also in a much better spot than the Colts because the Colts have to turn around and play Pittsburgh on Thursday Night on Thanksgiving, while the Titans go to Chicago to take on a Bears team that’s been one of the worst in the league this year. The Titans figure to be completely focused to take down an opponent that has caused them a lot of trouble in recent years, while the Colts could get caught looking forward to a tough Thursday Night game. The early line has them as 3 point home underdogs against the Steelers, while the Titans are favored by a point in Chicago. Favorites are 50-82 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, while underdogs are 92-60 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. If the Colts aren’t focused, they’re going to have a very tough time defeating a team that has significantly outplayed them this season. This is not only my Pick of the Week, but also one of my favorite picks all year.
Tennessee Titans 27 Indianapolis Colts 20 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3
Confidence: Pick of the Week