With just one game separating last from first place in the AFC South, the (2-3) Indianapolis Colts are headed to Nashville’s LP Field to take on the (2-3) Tennessee Titans in a Monday Night Football matchup (8.30pm ET on ESPN).
It was a devastating blow to the Colts’ season when offseason shoulder surgery to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck meant he would miss the team’s first game of the year. One game turned into two, turned into five and so far, Luck is still week-to-week and doesn’t seem particularly close to taking the field just yet.
This was supposed to mean that veteran journeyman Scott Tolzien was going to be under center, but Tolzien too got injured in the first game. Second year quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been handling the job as a result and to his credit, he’s done a decent job. Brissett has passed for just under 1,000 yards over parts of five games, with two touchdowns and an 80.7 rating.
In Tennessee third year, second overall draft pick Marcus Mariota had been enjoying a strong season himself until he was sidelined prior to last week with a hamstring injury. Mariota is listed as a game-time decision but the expectation is that he won’t play. The Titans lose a lot of production with Mariota on the bench including his 792 yards, three touchdowns and 79.8 rating on the year.
Stepping in for Mariota would be last week’s starter Matt Cassel who shares something in common with Brissett, who will be opposite him on the field on Monday night.
Both Brissett and Cassel are former back-up quarterbacks to Tom Brady in New England meaning that they learned under the best. Brady’s success over the years has been well-documented and both Cassel and Brissett enjoyed pretty solid campaigns while spending time with the Patriots. For Cassel in particular, his best career year was with the Patriots. Since then, he’s definitely had his ups and downs and has had a tough time finding a team to land with and stay. With the Titans, in Mariota’s absence, he’ll once again be looking to prove he’s a good enough option for a team looking for a starting quarterback and not a backup.
When it comes to the battle of the backup quarterbacks, there is a slight edge that goes to Brissett. Younger and with a better arm, Brissett also has the luxury of better weapons than Cassel has in Tennessee, namely TY Hilton. On the year, Hilton has caught 24 passes for 466 yards, making him the leading receiver on Indianapolis. In the running game, the Colts also have two running backs over 100 yards, including the veteran Frank Gore (239 yards) and the young hot shot Marlon Mack (112), who’s quickly making a name for himself in this league. Against a weaker Titans’ defense which has shown to be vulnerable to the pass, Mack is also a likely bet to be used in the short passing/screen game, where his speed and explosiveness will be on display.
Brissett himself is also a mobile quarterback, an advantage that Cassel doesn’t have. On the year, the 22-year-old has 83 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Can the Colts Fix Their Defense?
This week in practice Andrew Luck made some throws and spent some time on the field. According to various reports, Luck made that defense look silly, picking them apart pretty easily. Of course his knowledge of the team and their schemes certainly helped but what really came out of this was that Indianapolis’ defense is still not where they’d like it to be.
Hoping to get that defense back on track against the Titans, the Colts do have two things working for them. For starters, a matchup against Cassel is much more favorable than having to face the dual run/pass threat of Mariota. This will be a good game for the defense to really start to put itself together. The second thing is that for the first time this year, it’s very likely that Indianapolis will have the full complement of defenders at their disposal. This will really be the debut of the full, reworked secondary and it should be a much better result for Colts fans.
Our Preview’s Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Predictions & Picks
The Colts have certainly had an up-and-down year in large part due to Luck’s absence. In their two victories, the Colts have beaten teams with a combined record of 0-10 on the year. These weren’t exactly statement wins by any means but in a division where none of the four teams have really had statement wins, the soft schedule has certainly helped the Colts keep themselves alive in the race for a playoff spot.
The online sportsbooks have been slow with their betting lines due to the line-up uncertainties, particularly the total points, so when it comes to this preview’s betting predictions and picks, we advise just the one:
- Bet on the Colts +7pts @ -115 with 5Dimes.