This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup brings us an AFC South rivalry game as Philip Rivers and the Colts (5-3) travel to Nashville to take on Ryan Tannehill and the Titans (6-2).
Week 10 Prime Time Picks: Colts (+115) vs Titans (-2) O/U 48.5 – All lines via DraftKings
Prime Time Picks: 9-7
Colts Offensive Struggles
The Colts defense has been arguably the best in the league so far. The same cannot be said about the offense, which has been unspectacular. The Colts have four games where they have turned the ball over at least twice, and six of those eight turnovers were interceptions from Philip Rivers. The Colts are 1-3 in those games. In the games where they don’t turn the ball over, the Colts are 3-0 with a scoring margin of +57. For the season, Rivers has been pretty middle-of-the-road, as he is completing 67% of his passes for 10 TD’s, 7 INT’s for a rating of 91.9. A big problem for this Indianapolis offense is the lack of big plays down the field. The Colts only have 13 passing plays this season that have gone for at least 25 yards. That is 19th in the league. The good news is that T.Y. Hilton is back in the lineup after missing last week’s game against Baltimore. Another area of improvement that is needed for Indianapolis is red zone offense. The Colts are 24th in red zone efficiency, finding the end zone just 16 times in their 28 trips. For Thursday’s matchup, the Colts will not only need to capitalize on red zone chances, but focus on protecting the ball. Tennessee’s defense is tied for 3rd in the league in takeaways with 14, and tied for 2nd in interceptions with nine.
Rivers Should Have Time to Throw
As stagnant as the Colts offense can be, their offensive line is not one of their problems. The Colts offensive line has given up just 8 sacks this year, which is the lowest in the league. Philip Rivers should have plenty of time to throw on Thursday night. They will be facing a Tennessee defensive line that hardly ever brings down opposing quarterbacks. They rank 28th in sacks (10), 30th in sack rate (3.0 percent), and dead last in hurry rate (5.2 percent). A good offensive line going up against a weak pass rush should give Rivers ample time to find his receivers downfield. The Titans passing defense is among the worst in the league, as they are giving up 275 yards per game, which is 27th in the league. They may give up a lot of yards, but as stated earlier, they rely heavily on turnovers and takeaways. Rivers may have the opportunity for some yardage, but he needs to be accurate with his throws. Otherwise, the Tennessee defense will be sure to take advantage.
Derrick Henry vs Colts Rushing Defense
It is no secret that the Tennessee offense runs through Derrick Henry. Henry is one of the best backs in the league, and currently sits 2nd in rushing yards this year with 843, just behind Dalvin Cook’s 858. However, that stat may be a little misleading for Henry, because he has ran the ball 38 more times than Cook. Henry’s yard per carry average is 4.6, but he has finished below 4.0 in five of the Titans’ eight games this season. To me, that shows that his numbers are a little more based on volume as opposed to gashing defenses consistently for big chunks of yards. He faced a tough rushing defense last week against Chicago, and they were able to hold him to 3.2 YPC, and just 68 yards in total. The Colts rushing D is much better than Chicago’s, as Indy is allowing just 83.6 yards per game on the ground (3rd), and Chicago is giving up 116.9 (14th). Henry’s biggest rushing games this year have come against very weak rushing defenses in Minnesota (20th), Cincinnati (29th), and Houston (32nd/dead last). The Colts offer a very tough challenge.
Tannehill vs Colts Passing D
If indeed Henry is bottled up by the Colts stellar rushing defense, the offensive success for the Titans would then rely on QB Ryan Tannehill. For the season, Tannehill is playing very well, as he is completing 65.7% of his passes for just under 250 yards a game, with 19 TD’s and just three interceptions. He has been at his best when playing at home this season, where in five games, he has 15 TD’s and just one interception for a rating of 124.1. For comparison, he has 4 TD’s and two picks for a rating of 90.1 on the road. As good as Tannehill has been at home this season, he will be going up against a premier passing defense for Indianapolis. They are the #1 total defense (290 yards per game), allowing the 3rd fewest yards per game through the air (206.4), and 3rd fewest points per game (20).
Indy Gets No Prime Time Love
The Indianapolis Colts find themselves in yet another prime time game away from Indianapolis. This is noteworthy because since 2012, the first official season without Peyton Manning on the roster, the Colts have played (or will have played) 27 games in prime time through the 2020 season. 20 of those games (74%) have been on the road. That is the highest percentage of prime time games away from home for any team in the league. This Week 10 matchup in Nashville is Indy’s only prime time game this regular season, and will be the sixth straight prime time game away from Indianapolis. Head coach Frank Reich told his team before the season, “We’re gonna earn that just by taking care of business. When we play in prime time, we’ve gotta prove that we are a dominant team.”
The Colts are 15-8 SU all-time on the road against the Titans, and 13-4 ATS in their last 17 meetings. Furthermore, Indy is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings in Tennessee. The Colts won in Nashville 19-17 last year, and 33-17 in 2018. Tennessee is 4-13 SU in the previous 17 games in this series.
The Colts have by far the better defense in this game. They are very good at stopping the run, and just as good against the pass. I think they will be able to limit Derrick Henry, and hold the Titans offense in check. The game will come down to how well Philip Rivers plays, and whether or not he can avoid throwing picks. In the five Indianapolis wins, Rivers has 9 TD’s and two interceptions. In their three losses, he has one TD and five interceptions. The Titans defense is susceptible to giving up yards, but they have 14 takeaways on the year, nine of them being interceptions. Protecting the ball will be paramount for Rivers. He has played well against Tennessee in his career, going 7-2 with 17 TD’s and just four picks. The Titans may be 6-2, but they have played some extremely close games. Their first three games of the season were won by 1, 3, and 2 points. Then, after a blowout win of the Bills, the Titans barely beat the the 2-6 Texans in OT at home, then lost back-to-back games to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. They recovered last week against the Bears, but were out gained 375 to 228. That is pretty surprising because the Bears offense has been anemic this season. In this game, I give the advantage to the better defensive team and will take the Colts. It is somewhat of a toss-up, and given Indy’s recent success in this series, especially on the road, I like them in this spot. This is their only game in prime time this season, and they will be fighting for first place in their division on the road, so expect them to come in with a bit of a chip on their shoulder as well.
Title Photo: Thomas J. Russo / USA TODAY Sports