STAR PREVIEW Sun: Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

The AFC South with apologies to the Texans and the Jaguars is a two-horse race and this contest that wraps up the series between the Titans and the Colts will go a long way to deciding who will win this division. Tennessee were 25-16 victors when the teams met back in Week 3 although it’s fair to say that the pair are both playing better football now.

The Titans have recovered from their early season struggles winning five of the last six with headline victories over the AFC powerhouses of Buffalo and Kansas City coming in the last two weeks. The Colts “rise” has been more gradual and measured after losing their first three games, three wins out of four have followed although they have hardly been against the NFL’s elite despite the fact that the 30-18 victory over the 49er’s last week in atrocious conditions on the road had a lot of redeeming features.

The Titans offence is starting to roll after early season worries but they will be without wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) for this and that will force Tennessee to use a lot of A.J. Brown who over the last six quarters has 15 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. Brown could be the least of the Colts problems though as the beast that is Derrick Henry has run all over the Indianapolis defence since Matt Eberflus took over as the Colts defensive coordinator in 2018.

In just seven meetings Henry, who has run over most defences of late has crushed the Colts for 764 yards and five touchdowns at 5.46 yards per carry; over the last four games Henry has averaged 151-total yards versus the Colts. Another 100 yard game isn’t out of the question here and it’s understandable how the prices on that outcome and Henry to score a touchdown are both odds-on. Henry is on pace for 464 carries this season, has 869 rushing yards to his name already this season.

The Titans have also been excellent at protecting their quarterback Ryan Tannehill presenting him with a clean pocket with which to operate from. After being sacked on 20 of 202 dropbacks (9.9%) through five weeks of the season Tannehill has been sacked on just 1-of-59 plays in past two weeks and the Colts will need to step up their pressure rate (16.3%) which ranks last the NFL to affect the Titans quarterback.

Improved quarterback play via ex-Eagle Carson Wentz has a lot to do with the upturn in the Colts fortunes of late. The Colts have moved up to 11th in yards per drive and 14th in points per drive as Wentz has got more comfortable with the offence and they do have two playmakers in Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman who are integral pieces in their offence.
Pittman now in his second year leads the team in targets, catches and yards (438) on throws from Wentz and Tennessee have proved vulnerable to the receiver position.

However I believe the biggest threat will be Taylor who has hit the over on his rushing yards prop in four of the last five weeks and has three 100-yard games to his name over that stretch. Recording back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career Taylor has the chance to make it a hat-trick and become the first Colts player to do so since Hall-of-Famer Edgerrin James had five straight in 2005.

The wraps now appear to be off on Taylor and since Week 4 he’s averaging 104 yards on the ground and nearly 16 carries per game. This week should also see the return of Colts right tackle Braden Smith (one of the best run-blockers in the game) which will boost the offensive line and the Titans have given up 4.6 yards per carry to opposition running backs this year and face a difficult task in stopping the elusive Taylor.

This game has seen the handicap yo-yo throughout the week although on current form and factoring in the strength of the schedule it’s the Titans who should be just favourites despite being on the road. It’s a game that is too close to call though but I do believe that we will see a more offensive game than when the two last met with the chance of the points line set at 50.5 being breached.

The pace of the game could be a concern on that score with both sides ranking in the bottom-10 in the NFL in time-per-play in neutral situations but the saving grace could well be the ability on both sides to hit a big play with each franchise in the top half of the league in explosive play rate.

We may not see the AFC South decided on Sunday but whoever wins this will have the edge in that particular battle especially if it’s the Titans who having won the first game would hold a commanding advantage in the head-to-head between the two. I can see both Henry and Taylor having big games with the fact that we could see one or two explosive plays swaying me in favour of looking at the +5.5 touchdown line as one of the value plays in this game.

BACK Jonathan Taylor +78.5 rushing yards 3pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Over +5.5 match touchdowns 3pts at 4/5 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (OCTOBER 2021): PROFT 24.47 points
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