The Colts were expected to contend for an AFC South title this season, but the door seems wide open for the Titans to take control of the division now. Tennessee was the only AFC South team to win their opening game of the season, taking down an overhyped Cleveland Browns team with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Don’t count out the Colts though, as they took the L.A. Chargers to the brink in a tough 30-24 overtime loss in Week 1. Can the Colts have some better luck on the road against the Titans on Sunday?
The Colts’ 2019 season was derailed before it even began, as starting quarterback Andrew Luck announced his sudden retirement from the NFL in late-August, much to the surprise of nearly everyone in and around the league. While most media pundits have been quick to write off Indianapolis, the Colts proved they had some fight left in them in their Week 1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 21 of 27 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, while Marlon Mack exploded for 174 rushing yards in the 30-24 defeat. Brissett orchestrated a 16-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 19-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton to put the Colts in position to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Mack punched in the two-point conversion to send the game to overtime, but the Colts’ defense couldn’t hold in overtime.
Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel continued to show why he’s one of the brightest new minds in the NFL, shutting down a talented Cleveland Browns team in Week 1. Tennessee took control of the game from the start en route to a dominant 43-13 win. Marcus Mariota finished with 248 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers, while Derrick Henry picked up where he left off in 2018, finishing with 159 total yards and two scored. Henry took his lone catch 75 yards to the house and finished with 84 rushing yards and a score in the win, while tight end Delanie Walker caught two touchdowns in his return from a season-ending injury last year. While the Titans offense was rolling, the defense dominated, picking off former No.1-overall pick Baker Mayfield three times and holding the Browns to a 1-for-10 conversion rate on third downs.
Colts could tank for No. 1 pick in 2020
The sudden retirement of Andrew Luck has left the Colts franchise in a state of flux, but newly-crowned starter Jacoby Brissett is determined to help Indianapolis realize the goals they set for themselves in the offseason. Despite relatively pedestrian numbers in Week 1, Brissett’s first start of the season was a solid one. Had it not been for an uncharacteristic day from kicker Adam Vinetari, who missed three kicks on the afternoon, the Colts may have completed their comeback versus the Chargers.
The patience and vision from Marlon Mack was on full display in Sunday’s second half.
On this first play, I was like, ‘When the hell is he going to cut it up?’
Perimeter blocking really improved in the 2nd half. pic.twitter.com/7fAsHopQTQ
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) September 10, 2019
Even though the team signed Brissett to a two-year deal worth $30 million before the season, most NFL pundits believe the Colts could tank for top draft pick in 2020. The Colts notoriously tanked to nab the rights to draft Luck with the No.1-overall pick in the 2012 draft. The “Suck for Luck” rallying cry that became popular in 2011 could make a return to Indianapolis this year with several high-profile quarterbacks expected to declare for the 2020 draft. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon signal caller Justin Herbert, and Georgia QB Jake Fromm have all received first-round grades from ESPN’s Mel Kiper, making the 2020 draft a crucial one for quarterback-starved teams like the Colts.
Indy has another issue on Sunday and that’s replacing injured wideout Devin Funchess, who is out at least eight weeks due to a broken clavicle. The injury means last year’s sixth-round pick Deon Cain gets an opportunity to start. Cain had just 11 reps in the opener but caught two passes for 35 yards. Last season, he tore his ACL after showing some explosion in the preseason.
“We like Deon for a lot of the same reasons that we like Funch,’’ head coach Frank Reich said. “Yeah, they are different types of receivers, but Deon we feel like is a big-play receiver.”
“He has that in his game and I just think this is a great opportunity for him. But you know how we roll on offense. We will mix it up with some of the other guys as well.’’
Titans can cement status as contenders with Week 2 win
Tennessee earned an impressive Week 1 win in Cleveland last week, but the veterans aren’t letting the team get distracted from their season-long goals. Another dominant performance like the one they put together versus the Browns would make the Titans one of the teams to watch in the AFC this year. If the Titans want to win the AFC South, they will have to perform well within the division and this week’s matchup versus the Colts could go a long way in determining whether Tennessee will be able to contend for a division title in 2019.
One of the reasons the Titans turned into surprise contenders last year was the emergence of running back Derrick Henry, who turned in his first 1,000-yard season after a late surge in the final four weeks of the year. Henry had 585 yards in the final four weeks — more than half his season total of 1,059 yards.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) September 8, 2019
The Titans’ lead back credits former Titans’ great Eddie George for helping him adopt a new approach to carrying the football. George felt the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry needed to run more like he used to — with the authority to make defenders pay for trying to tackle him. Since having a heart-to-heart with George, Henry has scored 11 touchdowns, including two last week versus the Browns.
Despite Henry’s success, the team still might have to have a running back on speed-dial as the season moves along. Backup Dion Lewis looked ineffective in Week 1 and fellow running back David Fluellen is limited in practice this week as he deals with a hamstring issue.
- Colts are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games after accumulating more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Titans are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games in September.
- Titans are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. AFC South.
- Titans are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games following an ATS win