The AFC South has always been an up-for-grabs division, although the yearly winners of the division tend to win in spurts. Like a streaky shooter in basketball, once a team gets hot, they can control the division for years at a time. The Titans are the reigning champions, but prior to last year it was the Houston Texans who had won the division four out of the previous five years. The Indianapolis Colts own the largest winning streak of division titles thanks to Peyton Manning. From 2003-14, the Colts won the division nine times including a steak of five straight from 2003-2007. Since the creation of the division in 2002, the Colts lead in division titles with those nine championships. The Texans come in second with six titles. And despite two AFC Championship game appearances, the Titans only have half of the Texans’ total and one-third of the Colts’ with three. Jacksonville’s magical 2017 season is their lone title.
There’s plenty of animosity towards Tennessee from Houston this week (Exhibit A: https://twitter.com/GallantSays/status/1440757576472281089?s=20), but the Titans longtime rival has been and always will be Indianapolis. The Titans hold the all-time winning percentage edge over the Texans (.553) and Jaguars (.604), but are miserably poor against the Colts (.340). Even when the Titans have a superior team, or when the Colts are on the verge of a zero-win season, Tennessee finds a way to choke big games to Indianapolis. Will this game be any different? The (1-1) Titans and (0-2) Colts find themselves in a near must-win game in Week 3 if either plans to meet the lofty expectations placed on them by the media. Whether it’s Brett Hundley, Jacob Eason, or Carson Wentz on two sprained ankles, you have to think the Titans should win this one going away. But with only one win over the Colts at home in nearly 10 years, you can never be too cautious projecting a victory.
Offensively, the Titans hit their groove in the second half of their Week 2 matchup with the Seahawks in Seattle. Derrick Henry accounted for more than 200 scrimmage yards and accounted for all three of the Titans touchdowns. Pump the breaks on the “Derrick Henry carries Ryan Tannehill” narrative though, as Tannehill looked every bit like the MVP candidate I had projected him to be this year. With 347 yards, a YPA of 8.68, and an additional 27 yards on the ground, Tannehill was the maestro who orchestrated the comeback against Seattle. King Henry played his part to perfection and the offensive symphony blew the doors off the Seahawks defense. Of note, Tannehill had a touchdown taken away (ridiculously) after an incredible touchdown grab from Julio Jones was inexplicably called back. The only reason for concern was the lack of production from AJ Brown, who will presumably return to WR1 form this week. If Julio and AJ can be productive at the same time, I’m not sure who you build your defense to stop. Henry? Julio? AJ? Bottom line: good luck Indianapolis.
As previously mentioned, the Colts could be potentially utilizing a multi-QB approach in this one. With reports from Indianapolis hinting that Hundley and Eason could see time should Wentz be unable to go. Despite Jonathan Taylor and one of the best offensive lines in football, it’s hard to see the Colts being able to go shot for shot with the Titans in this one. However, if the Colts 35-18 all-time record against the Titans has taught me one thing, it’s to never underestimate Indy.
I’m picking the Titans to win this one and I’ll take them to cover the 5.5-point spread. Give me the over, too. But I certainly don’t feel confident in projecting anything more than a one-score victory. Expect Henry to rush for over 100 yards I’ll take the over on Tannehill’s 262.5-yard prop, as well. Mike Vrabel (2-4 against IND as head coach) will have his men ready. Jeffrey Simmons will record a sack, Kevin Byard will record an interception, and the Titans will leave Week 3 with sole-possession of first place. And maybe, just maybe, can begin to put the demons of the Indianapolis rivalry to rest moving forward.
Titans 34 – Colts 26.