Both teams are in need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive in this week’s AFC South rivalry game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Fans in AFC South markets can watch the game on CBS.
According to our Week 13 NFL betting odds, the Colts are 2.5-point favorites at home. There is also an over/under of 43.5 points.
After a 5-2 start to the season, the Colts have slumped in November, losing three of their last four games. For what it’s worth, all three of those losses have come by four points or less. In fact, all but one of their games this season have been decided by seven points or less. That means Indianapolis isn’t far from being able to string wins together down the stretch.
At 6-5, the Colts are part of a four-way tie for the second Wild Card spot in the AFC. The Titans are also one of those four teams, making this week’s game vital for both teams. The Colts also finish their season with three of their final four games on the road, including games with the Saints and Panthers. If Indy loses this week, they’ll have a long road back into the playoff picture.
The Titans, as mentioned, are in the thick of the Wild Card race at 6-5. However, their path to getting there has been much different. Since Tennessee benched Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, they’ve won four of their last five games, scoring a minimum of 20 points in every game. Rather quietly, they’ve become one of the hottest teams in the NFL, including a win over the Chiefs a few weeks ago.
The caveat, of course, is that all four of those Tennessee wins under Tannehill have come at home. The Titans now have to play three of their final five games away from home. They also close out the season with two games against the Texans and one with the Saints, so their schedule is far from easy. Before that, road games the next two weeks with the Colts and Raiders, two other 6-5 teams, could determine their playoff fate.
As mentioned, the Colts won the first meeting between these teams, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win 19-17 in Week 2. The Colts also swept the season series with Tennessee last season and have won 19 of their last 22 games against the Titans overall.
Indy’s recent trouble winning games and their propensity for only winning close games doesn’t make them a great candidate for covering a spread, even a small one. With the struggles of kicker Adam Vinatieri this season, the Colts are also leaving a lot of points on the field. On top of that, I’m inclined to think that the Titans are actually the better team, which makes me feel comfortable taking Tennessee as the underdog.
With Tannehill at quarterback, the Titans are averaging over 29 points per game and are coming off a season-high 42 points against a decent Jacksonville defense a week ago. The difference between him and Marcus Mariota has been night and day. Tannehill is completing 72% of his passes and is averaging over nine yards per pass. Not only does Tannehill give the Titans a viable quarterback, but they also have a steady running game behind Derrick Henry, who is nearly at 1,000 rushing yards on the season and is averaging close to five yards per carry on the season.
The Colts had a little bit of trouble containing Henry when these teams met in Week 2. When you add a viable passing attack to the equation, I think the Indy defense could have its hands full against the Titans. I’ll admit that the Colts have been solid on that side of the ball for most of the season. But I don’t think they’ll be dominant against Tennessee’s balanced attack, making it more difficult to create separation and build a comfortable lead.
On the other side of the ball, the Indianapolis offense is a little short-handed these days with Marlon Mack missing with a broken hand and Eric Ebron going on IR this week. T.Y. Hilton is also unlikely to play this week after a brief return to the lineup last week. The good news is that Jonathan Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back weeks in Mack’s place. But Jacoby Brissett has been slumping over the last month, throwing just one touchdown pass in his last four games. The Colts are going to need more out of Brissett down the stretch and I’ve lost a lot of confidence in him over the last few weeks.
All things considered, this feels like a toss-up game that could go either way. That makes me feel a little more comfortable taking the underdog and the points. More importantly, with Tannehill playing well and the Titans having the more established running back, I could argue that Tennessee is the better team in this game, so I have no problem taking the Titans to win.