Monday Night Football Predictions: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Odds & Picks
Has there been a more one-sided intradivisonal rivalry this century than Indianapolis usually stomping AFC South foe Tennessee? I can't think of one.
The Oilers moved to Nashville for the 1997 season and became the Titans starting in 1999. For purposes of this story, we'll start with the year 2000 - the Titans have just seven victories over the Colts since. And three of those were the first three meetings. It's incredibly easy to see why Indianapolis has dominated its southern neighbors: quarterbacks. The Colts, who have taken 11 straight and 16 of the past 17 meetings, generally either have had future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning or potential future Hall of Famer (if he can stay healthy) Andrew Luck under center.
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Tennessee had the excellent Steve McNair through 2005, although his play really fell off after 2003. Here is a list of Titans starting quarterbacks since McNair left: Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Rusty Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, Marcus Mariota and Matt Cassel. Young and Collins were solid for a season each. Mariota, I will get to shortly. The rest of the guys aren't great.
The AFC South has been the worst division in football the past two years and looks to be again with only the Jaguars above .500 at 3-2 - and they are winning DESPITE their quarterback, Blake Bortles. Houston, Tennessee and Indianapolis are all 2-3, so this is totally up for grabs. It could depend on how long Luck and Mariota are out. At BetOnline , the Jags are +150 division co-favorites with the Texans. The Titans are +175 and Colts at a surprising price of +800.
Colts at Titans Betting Story Lines
You probably aren't going to see a line on this game for a few days until the oddsmakers can guestimate whether Mariota will play. He sat out last week's 16-10 loss in Miami, and it's crystal clear that Tennessee's offense isn't the same without him. Look, I'm not going to get into the whole national anthem issue, which was started by Colin Kaepernick. If an owner doesn't want Kaepernick on his team because of that, it's said owner's right. But is it worth costing your team its first division title and playoff berth since 2008?
Matt Cassel is Mariota's backup, and Cassel should not be starting for anyone in the NFL. I mean, the guy never did at USC for a reason. When Mariota injured his hamstring in Week 4's blowout loss in Houston, Cassel was an ugly 4-for-10 for 21 yards with two picks in the second half. Last week with Mariota out, Cassel was 21-for-32 for 141 yards and a TD. The Dolphins weren't remotely afraid of him and stacked the box, holding Tennessee to 69 yards rushing on 20 carries and 188 total yards. Are you telling me Kaepernick wouldn't perform better than Cassel? Recently, the Titans decided to sign another scrub, Brandon Weeden, as the No. 3 QB instead of Kaepernick.
Mariota is considered a game-time call Monday. I have no idea if he will play, although the extra day helps; Coach Mike Mularkey said Mariota wasn't close vs. Miami even though he originally was a game-time call there. The Titans also don't yet know if left tackle Taylor Lewan will go due to a knee injury suffered against Miami. An MRI came back clean.
Luck, meanwhile, continues to rehab from January shoulder surgery and at least has started practicing in a limited fashion, but I doubt you see him before Week 8 at the earliest. Why didn't the team just put him on the PUP list to start and open a roster spot for the first six weeks? Jacoby Brissett will make his fifth start of the season, and the Colts are so lucky they stole him in a trade from New England for first-round bust WR Phillip Dorsett on the eve of the season (Indianapolis also passed on signing Kaepernick).
Indy is 2-2 under Brissett, albeit home wins by just a field goal each over the winless 49ers and Browns. Overall, Brissett is completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 997 yards, two TDs and three picks for a rating of 80.7. He also has rushed for 83 yards and three TDs. Not Pro Bowl numbers, but I'd certainly prefer him to Cassel or several other backups in the NFL. Expect to see more of rookie running back Marlon Mack this week. The fifth-rounder out of South Florida blew up in last week's win over the 49ers with 91 yards and a TD on nine carries. It's about time for the Colts to phase out 34-year-old Frank Gore, who is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry but just passed Eric Dickerson for seventh on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Gore has had a fine career, but he's no Dickerson.
Colts at Titans Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , there are no lines because of Mariota. For what it's worth, on the advanced lines entering the season, the Titans were 3-point favorites. They should be around that if not a couple more if Mariota plays. Could be close to a pick'em if he doesn't. FiveThirtyEight has the Titans with an Elo spread of -2.5 right now and a win probability of 59 percent. That would make Tennessee around -150 on the moneyline. The Colts are 3-2 against the spread (0-2 on road) and 4-1 "over/under" (2-0 on road). The Titans are 2-3 ATS (1-1 at home) and 3-2 O/U (1-1 at home).
The Colts are 0-5 ATS in their past five after a win. The Titans are 5-0 ATS in their past five on Monday. They have covered just eight of their past 32 at home. The over is 4-1 in the Colts' past five on Monday. It's 9-2 in Tennessee's previous 11 vs. the AFC South. The Colts are 10-1 in the past 11 meetings.
Colts at Titans Betting Prediction
Needless to say, wait for definitive word on Mariota here. If he plays, the Titans should win by at least a touchdown. If not, I'd lean the Colts - but more emphatically the under (it will be low) regardless of number. I'm just not a Cassel fan.
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