Free NFL Pick: Indianapolis at Tennessee 12-09-2010

December 8, 2010


Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Thursday December 9th, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Indianapolis -4


Coming into the season, it didn’t seem like the Colts were likely to have a must win game in their entire regular season. Any sort of competition was likely to come from Tennessee or Houston, but the playoffs seemed to be a certainty. Now, with the Jacksonville Jaguars at 7-5, the 6-6 Colts can’t afford to drop a game to the Jaguars. They might not be in panic mode yet, but tallying a fourth consecutive loss would probably land them there.

They take on the Tennessee Titans, who have underachieved themselves. At 5-7, the Titans have dropped five games in a row. After a rift between their head coach and quarterback, it is unclear what moves the Titans will make moving forward. For now, they have Kerry Collins under center and need to go 4-0 to even sniff the playoffs this season.

Keys to the Game:

  • Peyton Manning is having one of the worst stretches of his career. With 11 picks in his last three games, all resulting in losses, it appears as though the disarray the rest of  the Colts’ offense is in is finally taking its toll on Manning. Even so, you can expect Manning to get back on his feet this week. He is going up against the Titans defense and they have been less than impressive since their downfall began. Manning certainly expects more of himself than he has delivered, and it is likely you will see the Titans fall victim to Manning. It’s no accident that the Colts are still the top ranked passing team in the league, despite their onslaught of injuries.
  • With no Vince Young, Chris Johnson should see a huge influx in his number of carries and yardage, right? So far that has been far from true, as Johnson has 20 attempts for 56 yards in his last two games. All of his numbers, most notably his YPC, have taken a major hit without the Titans’ field general under center. As Peyton Manning should not be expected to stay in his slump, it is safe to say Chris Johnson will bounce back as well. This would be the perfect week to do it, as the Colts are likely to present opportunities for monster games, like they have all season long.
  • The Colts defense is just as much to blame for their three game losing streak as Peyton Manning. They don’t appear to have the ability to stop anyone in the run game and teams are taking notice. Let’s take a look at the Cowboys game last week. The Cowboys have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL and were missing Marion Barber last week. In a somewhat surprising move, the Cowboys ran the ball 42 times, not counting the four Jon Kitna rushes. The Cowboys racked up 38 points and only threw 26 passes. With a struggling Titans passing game, the Titans are likely to come after the Colts on the ground.
  • The Colts can’t run the ball, at all. The team ranks 32nd in the league when it comes to running the football. What gives? Joseph Addai is out with a shoulder injury, which isn’t helping matters. Former first round pick Donald Brown certainly isn’t living up to his expectations. The Colts need to have some sort of stability in their rush attack, or Peyton Manning will keep displaying his distrust for his running backs by giving them 15 carries in a game, as he did last week. Three running backs touched the ball Vs. the Cowboys, their yards per carry were 3.0, 1.6, and 1.0. Until somebody in the Colts’ backfield shows some life, why would Manning believe handing the ball off gives his team the best chance to succeed on any given play?
  • We are seeing bad Randy. After being considered an elite wide receiver coming into this season, Randy Moss is currently on his third team, and will likely see the bench the Thursday. Kenny Britt is returning, and due to Moss’ five catches in three games production, the Titans are likely to make Moss surrender his starting spot. Moss hasn’t been targeted often and teams are showing blatant disrespect for the Titans’ passing attack. With Kerry Collins under center, the Titans aren’t scaring anyone with their passing attack.
  • Reggie Wayne has had five games with at least 11 catches or 99 yards, all of them losses. Last week, he racked up 200 yards on 14 catches in a three point loss. The Colts have made it clear that succeeding on defense might not be within their capacity, so Wayne and the Colts offense need to be nearly flawless to come away with a victory. With Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, among others on the Colts’ offense sustaining injuries at some point this season, the fact that the Colts are still in playoff contention is nothing short of a miracle.
  • Dave Ball and Jason Babin have been destroying quarterbacks this season. The two combine for 16 sacks and are a huge part of the pass rush that makes the Titans so effective at getting to the quarterback. They will need to have an outstanding game, as the Titans are struggling on defense outside their pass rush. With Manning struggling, the Titans can’t let him fall into a rhythm by allowing him more than a moment to throw the ball. The teams that are effective against Manning are the ones that are able to get pressure on him, like the Chargers seem to in every meeting they have with the Colts.
  • Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney have been even more effective at getting to the quarterback this season, getting to the quarterback a combined 16.5 times. This week, their impact will be less critical to the success or failure of their team than that of Ball and Babin, mostly because the Titans are unlikely to launch much of an aerial assault. When Kerry Collins does drop back, the Colts need to capitalize, as that is when the Titans open themselves up to mistakes.

Key Matchup:

Kenny Britt Vs. Colts’ Secondary

  • Kenny Britt hasn’t played in four games, but appears to be back to full strength. The Titans will likely struggle at throwing the ball, but if they can get Kenny Britt the ball early, it opens up the entire offense. Nate Washington has been solid this year, but Britt’s three touchdown 225 yard performance against Philadelphia still stands out as the one of the best single game performances of the year. Britt has the potential to take over a game, though he needs only to be slightly above average to make a huge impact on how effective the Colts are against the Titans’ offense as a whole.
  • The Colts give up 200 passing yards a game this season. A main reason for that is that teams have been so effective against the run when they play them. The Colts are missing their biggest playmaker in the secondary with Bob Sanders out. While the Titans probably won’t test the passing game all that much this Thursday, a collapse in the Colts secondary would lead to a crisis for their defense as a whole.

Wrap Up:

The Colts and Titans are struggling mightily. The Colts have more to lose with a loss, because they are all but out of the playoff picture; however, I don’t see the Colts stopping or even slowing Chris Johnson.  The Colts are 2-4 on the road this season, with one of their wins only coming by three points. The Titans have lost- and lost big in most cases- in their last five outings.

The Colts and Titans matchup twice in the remaining four games this season. The outcome of these games will likely dictate whether or not the Colts have the potential to secure a playoff birth. Both offenses are probably going to succeed and I like the Colts to win either in overtime or a last second field goal. I like the Titans to cover though, as long as Chris Johnson sees a massive increase in his amount of carries and the Titans don’t call upon Kerry Collings to be the difference maker.

Free NFL Pick: Tennessee +4

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