Colts at Titans on Thursday Night

COLTS LOOKING TO REGAIN RESPECT AFTER GETTING SHELLACKED BY ST. LOUIS

There's been a lot of skepticism about the real postseason potential of the Indianapolis Colts all through the 2013 campaign. For every great result (upsetting Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver), there had been a disappointing result (losing to Miami and San Diego) or a "they were lucky to survive that one"result (barely beating Oakland and Houston). Were the Colts for real, or a pretender?

Many in the analytical field took last week's stunning 38-8 home loss to St. Louis as proof positive that the Colts are a fraud who happened to catch a few league powers in great schedule spot. It's really hard to make a case NOW that the Colts have the consistency to matter in January. Maybe they can get lucky again and score one big upset. But, they'll just fall flat the next week and get battered. Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck will eventually have the bad turnover game that leads to a blowout loss. This team just isn't ready...YET.

The chance to revise everyone's thinking begins Thursday Night in Tennessee, when the Colts face a divisional rival on the road. They barely got past Houston in a similar spot two Sundays ago, and know that a tough road schedule remains.

INDY ON THE ROAD
Thursday: at Tennessee
December 14: at Arizona
December 8: at Cincinnati
December 22: at Kansas City

Cincinnati and Kansas City are very likely headed toward the playoffs. If Indianapolis can't bounce back well Thursday in Tennessee from last week's debacle, they'll rave serious troubles playing well at those sites.

Let's run some numbers to see what the Cols might be capable of against the Titans in a matchup you'll be watching on the NFL Network.

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Indianapolis: 6-3 (#22 schedule in USA Today)
Tennessee: 4-5 (#23 schedule in USA today)

The teams have played almost identical schedules, and the Colts have clearly been the superior side. Note that they will play each other twice in the next three weeks, with the return engagement on Sunday December 1 at Indy.

Yards-Per Play
Indianapolis: 5.5 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Tennessee: 5.1 on offense, 5.2 on defense

This is interesting. Tennessee actually has the better YPP differential while playing a very similar schedule. It's a bad sign indeed for the Colts that they're -0.3 against a schedule that rates below average. Their defense has been a disappointment. And, that's not really a great offensive mark for a team supposedly being led by a star quarterback.

Turnover Differential
Indianapolis: +3
Tennessee: +4

Similar marks here. It's a good sign for Luck that he's on the right size of zero as just a second year signal caller. He's still on pace to be a Hall-of-Famer. Just remember that he's not quite yet one of the best in the game. He will have occasional outings at a high level, but is still striving for consistency. And, Tennessee deserves some credit because they've been dealing with a young injury-prone quarterback (Jake Locker), and a veteran who's prone to make mistakes (Ryan Fitzpatrick). Note that Locker is now out for the season, and Fitzpatrick will be playing the rest of the way.

Market Performance
Indianapolis: 5-4 ATS
Tennessee: 5-3-1 ATS

Given all the talk about Luck and the Colts being overrated in certain circles, it's important to note that the team is 55% against the spread this season. Both teams have been cashing tickets more often than not.

Current Line: Indianapolis by 3, total 42.5

Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL. So, the market is telling you that Indianapolis would be -6 on a neutral field, and might be as high as -9 in their home rematch in two weeks. Given their tendency to play to the level of their opponents, those numbers might strike you as a little high. Handicappers will be dealing with the following issues when trying to make a Thursday Night determination:

  • Will the Colts bring peak intensity in a big bounce back spot?
  • Will the Colts recognize the need to win this game to virtually cinch their division?
  • Were the Colts "taking last week off"because this game was so much more important?
  • Can Tennessee recover from the humiliation of losing to Jacksonville?!

JIM HURLEY has been working closely with all of the elements in NETWORK'S team handicapping approach. His SCOUTS and SOURCES have reported in on the mindsets of both teams. His STATHEADS have crunched all the numbers. His COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations around the clock. And, his WISE GUY CONNECTIONS have clued him into what the smart money is doing. All that has led to a BIG, JUICY WINNER that's waiting for you right here at the website for credit card purchase!

If you have any questions about this game, or the full weekend multi-sport schedule, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453.

This week's big game previews in the NOTEBOOK through the weekend:
Friday: Early look at Georgia at Auburn set for Saturday afternoon on CBS
Saturday: Stanford at USC in the showcase prime time game on ABC
Sunday: Green Bay at the NY Giants on NBC
Monday: New England at Carolina in a blockbuster edition of MNF on ESPN

The MONEY TRAIN never stops chugging along. Climb aboard today with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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