Tennessee Titans (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (7-3)
These two teams met just two and a half weeks ago in week 10 on Thursday Night Football, with the Colts winning 34-17. That final score looks somewhat lopsided, but it was a much closer game that suggests, as the Titans led with a 71.5% chance of winning with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, before a series of special teams snafus. The Titans also won the first down rate battle in the game by 3.99%, which lines up with how these two teams have played on the season, with the Titans faring slightly better, ranking 15th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, while the Colts rank 16th.
The Titans are also better suited to continue playing well going forward because they’re an offensive led team (3rd in schedule adjusted first down rate and 29th in schedule adjusted first down rate allowed), while the Colts are a defensive led team (22nd and 11th) and offense tends to be much more consistent and predictive going forward than defense. Both teams can compete with almost anyone if their weaker side of the ball has a middling performance, but the Titans’ offense is better than the Colts’ defense and it’s more likely that the Titans’ weaker side of the ball has a middling performance than the Colts’ because of the inherent randomness of defensive play, so the Titans have the higher upside of these two teams.
Despite that, the Titans are 3.5 point underdogs here in Indianapolis, likely because the general public looks at what happens when these two teams met two weeks ago in Tennessee and assumes the Colts will have no problem winning in Indianapolis. However, the Colts are highly unlikely to dominate special teams like they did in the first matchup and homefield advantage doesn’t matter much this year with limited fan attendance, so I like the Titans chances of keeping this one competitive, if not winning straight up.
The Titans have lost top linebacker Jayon Brown and top edge defender Jadeveon Clowney since the last matchup, but neither one played particularly well in the first matchup and the Colts will also be without stud defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, which is a massive loss, as well as fellow defensive starters linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive tackle Denico Autry and starting center Ryan Kelly. I have the Titans a half point better in my roster rankings, suggesting the Colts should be favored by no more than a point with limited homefield advantage, but with the Titans’ vastly superior offensive prowess, there is also a good chance they can pull the upset straight up. Either way, I like their chances of covering the 3.5 a lot.
Update: It’s all good on the injury report for the Titans with Saffold and Jones both playing and center Ryan Kelly and running back Jonathan Taylor being ruled out for the Colts. If I didn’t like the Buccaneers so much this week, this would be my Pick of the Week.
Tennessee Titans 26 Indianapolis Colts 24 Upset Pick +150
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3.5