Thursday, November 14, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 11: Colts vs Titans

Indianapolis Colts vs Tennessee Titans: IND -2.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

How much is Jake Locker worth?  Last week the advanced line at LVH actually had the Tennessee Titans as -2 point favorites for this game. After Week 10, the line reopened at Colts -2.5.

There was a slight move to -3 during the week, but most sportsbooks are keeping this at -2.5.

85% of the bets are on Indianapolis.

Keep an eye on

For what it's worth, I don't think Jake Locker is worth a 4.5 swing in the point spread when Ryan Fitzpatrick is your quarterback. Not because Fitzpatrick is that good, but because Locker wasn't exactly tearing up the league when he went down with his injury. Locker was a below average QB before he went down and wasn't playing up to the level he reached before his previous hip injury. When he left the game against the Jaguars, the score was 13-0 in favor of Jacksonville.

For the Titans to win and cover this game, they'll need to do it on the backs of their defense. Outside of Alterraun Verner, it's largely a no-name group, but they have had some success this year. Their primary strength is getting off the field on third down, where they rank in the top 10. Verner helps lead an above average pass defense, and this will be an area to watch. The Colts are still figuring things out without Reggie Wayne.

That's the good news for the Titans defense. The bad news is they haven't been able to stop the run all year. While Indy isn't known for their ground game, they do rank really high in run efficiency. Part of this is thanks to the legs of Andrew Luck, but it should be noted that quality is much more important than quantity when we talk about rushing the football.

The other area the Titans have had trouble with on defense is keeping opponents out of the red zone. It's good that they limit those opportunities with good play between the 20's, but it's demoralizing to be a bottom tier team in the money area. The Colts have ranked high in these make or break situations all year, but that does change with Wayne out of the mix.

When the Titans have the ball, it's uncertain what they will get with Fitzpatrick as a starter. He was ineffective in his two starts this year, but those came against the Seahawks and Chiefs - both excellent defenses. The Colts defense isn't up to that standard as they rank average against the pass, run, and red zone defense. Like the Titans, they also rank high on third down so the Titans will need to figure out how to put Fitzpatrick in good situations for those critical downs. Last week he was great on third down, but the Jaguars defense makes everybody look good.

It would really help their cause if they had a better run game. The offensive line was supposed to be an area of strength after they invested so heavily in it before the season, but both the line and the running attack have been below average through the first half of the year.

Neither team has a significant advantage on the line of scrimmage, but the Colts do have an edge in the peripheral stats. The Colts offense is one of the least flagged units in the league. This is an area that is often overlooked, but there is nothing more detrimental to a drive than penalties. The Titans also rank near the bottom of the league on special teams. This aspect of the game only accounts for a small part of an outcome, but in a league of inches it could be important when a small point spread is on the line.

Bottom Line

Both of these teams had really ugly losses last week. Luck is still navigating his way without Wayne, while the Titans are stuck with a journeyman backup QB. Of the two, I think the Titans loss was more concerning going forward. The last time I checked, they don't have a Tavon Austin on their roster either.

Normally, the favorite would be inflated in this spot. In this case it is not. If it were, the Colts would be -3 point favorites at the minimum. Despite the risks that road favorites face on a Thursday night game (hello Bengals and Redskins), the Colts are in a good position to win and cover this game. I'll lay anything less than a field goal.

NFL Pick: IND -2.5.