In what is the final game of the 2018 NFL regular season, we have two times fighting for one the biggest prizes of all, a playoff spot. Win and you’re in, it’s really that simple. Both of these sides currently sit at 9-6 after tremendous second halves of the season. Tennessee enter this one off four straight impressive wins, whilst the Colts have surprised many with 8 wins in their last 9. An injury to QB Marcus Mariota will make things tougher for Tennessee here, but they do at least have a raucous home crowd behind them. Let’s break down our 3 best bets in this AFC South blockbuster.
The Titans enter this off their 4th straight win, a somewhat nervy 25-16 home victory over Washington. RB Derrick Henry led the way offensively, with 84 hard-fought yards and a touchdown on his 21 carries. A first-half injury to QB Marcus Mariota forced backup Blaine Gabbert to deliver in the passing game. He put in a solid performance too, going 7/11 for 101 yards and a touchdown. If Mariota is indeed out for this one, Gabbert will need to step up and deliver against a fast-finishing Colts side. In Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, the Titans also have a duo of young receivers that have emerged as ones to watch for the future.
Tennessee have been excellent defensively all season; a trend which continued in this one. The pass defence led the way, limiting opposing QB Josh Johnson to just 13/23 for 153 yards and 2 interceptions. The rush defence could stand to improve however, having allowed 119 yards to star Adrian Peterson. Elite Defensive Tackle suffered an injury against Washington and has already been ruled out for this one, which is a huge blow for this Titans unit. If they can win the battle against Andrew Luck, they’ve got every chance of taking this game out.
The Colts also enter this one on a phenomenal run of form, having won 8 of their last 9 games to find themselves 9-6. QB Andrew Luck has been outstanding all season, throwing for over 4300 yards and 36 touchdowns. Running Backs Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins have begun to form an impressive duo, combining for over 1300 total yards so far. Wide Receiver T.Y Hilton has emerged as one of the NFL’s premier deep threats, hauling in 74 catches for over 1200 yards. Tight End Eric Ebron has been just as good in the red-zone, with 13 total touchdowns on the season.
The Colts defence has been just as good in this winning run. They haven’t allowed 30 points or more in any of their last 9 games, holding their opponents to 10 points or less on 4 of those occasions. Rookie Linebacker Darius Leonard is receiving a ton of attention, having gone for 155 tackles and 7 sacks so far. Defensive End Denico Autry has also emerged as a very solid pass rusher, having totalled 9 sacks this season. If the Colts can get consistent pressure on Mariota or Gabbert, they’ve got a real strong shot of taking this one out.
Whilst these two sides are very evenly matched, Tennessee’s Quarterback situation is a bit of a worry here. I’ve never been a fan of Blaine Gabbert and injuries are particularly hard to deal with for mobile QB’s like Mariota. In what is the most important position on the field, Indianapolis will have a huge advantage here, regardless of who starts. With guys like Mack, Hilton, and Ebron all in form, the Colts also have many more offensive weapons.
The loss of Jurrell Casey is also a huge factor that is being ignored in this one. One of the best Defensive Tackles in the NFL, he really is the heart and soul of this Titans defence. Having been confirmed out, I think the Colts offensive line does a strong job protecting Luck here. Indianapolis appeared to have flipped the switch mid-season and I expect them to march into the playoffs. Laying less than a field goal, I’ll have to side with the public here.
Under 45 Points
I expect this to be a competitive and low-scoring affair. With the stakes so high, both coaches will be afraid to take risks early on. The Colts defence has improved immeasurably of late, holding 3 of their last 6 opponents to 10 points or less. Interestingly enough, this includes the Tennessee Titans, who are yet to defeat Andrew Luck in his entire career.
Even without Casey, this Titans defence shouldn’t be slept on. As long as they can get pressure on Luck, I expect their elite secondary to hold up here. They’ve allowed an average of under 9 points per game and are in really good form. Another thing I like about this play is that 45 is a key number for totals. 24-21 is one of the NFL’s most common score lines, which would result in a push at this number. For me, all the value is on the under here.
First TD Scorer: Marlon Mack
As a bit of a roughie, I’ve decided to also throw in a first touchdown scorer bet. Marlon Mack has come on leaps and bounds of late and has established himself as the Colts first choice back. If their first touchdown ends up being a run, I definitely see Mack given first go as opposed to alternatives like Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. This also ties in nicely with our Colts -1.5 spread bet. Whilst pass catchers like T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron are also in with a shout, I think the best value is on Mack in this market.
Score Prediction: Indianapolis Colts 20-17 Tennessee Titans