Titans vs. Colts Odds & Picks: How to Bet Sunday’s AFC South Showdown
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Nyheim Hines rushes vs. the Titans.
Titans vs. Colts Odds
The AFC South has quietly been one of the most interesting division races of 2020 with the Titans and Colts going back and forth all season.
The Colts stumbled out of the gates with a Week 1 loss to the Jaguars, while the Titans stormed out to a 5-0 start to grab a big early lead. But Tennessee lost its next two games, including a shocker in Cincinnati, as Indianapolis tied things up at the top.
Week 9 saw the Titans take a one-game lead again as the Colts were bamboozled by Baltimore, but the Colts flipped the race again four days later when they travelled to Tennessee and doubled up the Titans, 34-17.
That win once again tied the Colts and Titans atop the division but gave Indianapolis the lead for the first time as a result of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Both teams made big comebacks a week ago against outstanding opponents, and now they’ll meet for the second time in three weeks with the AFC South lead on the line yet again.
Another Colts win would give them a commanding lead, a full game plus a clinched tiebreaker with the head-to-head sweep. A Titans win puts them right back on top and likely gives them the division tiebreaker because of that early Colts loss to the Jaguars.
This is it. The AFC South is on the line, and the winner Sunday is in pole position going forward. Which team has the edge?
The Titans are coming off their biggest win of the season after going to Baltimore and beating the Ravens in overtime. Tennessee trailed 21-10 early in the second half but came all the way back to grab a lead, then won in overtime with — who else? — a monster Derrick Henry touchdown.
Six of Tennessee’s seven wins have come by one score. Heck, two of them have been won with Henry touchdowns in overtime.
The advanced metrics like but don’t love the Titans: They’re ranked 13th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and their Pro Football Reference expected won-loss record is 5.4-4.6, much closer to a .500 ball club than a division-leading 7-3. They’ve been poor defensively, but rank No. 3 in offensive DVOA, gashing with Henry in the run game and hitting teams over the top with Ryan Tannehill play-action reads.
Tannehill has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks since taking the reins in Tennessee, and the Titans have been especially strong in the second half of games, when Henry runs through tired defenses. Still, all those close wins mean the Titans are giving almost as much back on defense as they get on offense. They usually have to survive late.
The Titans are also without Taylor Lewan on the offensive line and Jadeveon Clowney in their pass rush. Those are two big losses in the trenches.
The Colts are coming off their hottest stretch of the season: Their win in Tennessee two weeks ago was their best of the season, and they followed that up with a big comeback to shock the Packers in overtime last week.
Unlike the Titans, the underlying metrics believe quite a bit in the Colts: They fifth in overall DVOA and fifth in defense. They’ve also been outstanding on special teams.
Where Indy has lacked consistency has been on offense: The unit really only played well in the second half of those two big wins, and the Colts have played a pretty soft schedule until the last few weeks.
Unlike Tennessee, Indianapolis has often taken care of business quite comfortably. The Colts have four wins by 17 or more points. They certainly have the stronger profile than Tennessee.
Injuries could hold Indianapolis back on Sunday. Philip Rivers is questionable with a lingering toe injury. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t play, but a limited Rivers could stop the Colts from taking advantage of this bad Titans defense.
Rivers had a poor start to the season with a four-to-five touchdown-to-interception ratio over his first five games, but that’s jumped to 10-3 in the five recent games, and against a much harder schedule.
Rivers is expected to play, but the Colts will be without defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who’s out with a positive COVID-19 test. These were the two star acquisitions for Indianapolis this offseason, and now the Colts will be missing one or both of them in arguably their biggest game of the season.
This is a fun matchup because we get a great Titans offense against a great Colts defense, plus a blah Tennessee defense against a meh Indianapolis offense. It’s a pretty even matchup overall.
So, how did the Colts dominate so much in that 34-17 win two weeks ago? Well… they didn’t. The Titans actually led 17-10 before the final play of the first half, and remember, the Titans are typically a second-half team.
Indianapolis scored 24 unanswered points to close out the game from there, but it wasn’t as lopsided as it seems. The Colts returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and benefited from a short field throughout, and the Titans had the ball much of the second half. But beyond that blocked punt, the Titans also missed a second-half field goal and shanked a punt 17 yards.
Indy’s special teams were a huge advantage, but the game was much closer than the final score implied. Or was it? The Colts’ offense sliced through the Titans’ defense most of the game. The Colts never punted until their final drive, with the game well in hand. They had five scoring drives before that, and the other two drives ended with stuffed runs on fourth-and-1 — one of them in field-goal range and the other one yard from the end zone.
You can twist the narrative any direction you like from that first meeting. In truth, both teams left a lot on the table, but there’s certainly no way to look at that game of data and know for sure which team is better.
Perhaps you prefer to rely on history: The Colts have owned the Titans for longer than a decade. Indianapolis has won 20 of its last 24 against Tennessee. Of course, the Colts also had Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck for most of those wins. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much that matters here.
The Colts feel like slightly the better team. They were the better team in the first matchup and have the better overall metrics, and history is on their side. But, though both teams are missing key players, Indy’s injury concerns are bigger and close the gap — a gap that already wasn’t very big.
It feels like the bookies got this one nearly right, leaving little margin. It feels close to a coin flip to me, and the line has slowly moved toward a pick’em as the week has gone on. I would play the Colts at even odds, but I don’t like giving up a field goal. The over also looks decent at 51.5, considering the teams scored 51 last time and left so much on the table, but those injuries could mute the scoring.
In the end, I’m looking to grab some +EV odds for the best play. In a game that feels nearly even, the Titans moneyline sits at +160, an implied 38.4% win rate. I’m not sure Tennessee should be 50%, but I’d put them closer to 50 than 38. There’s also the temptation to play the odds to win the AFC South, but with Tennessee at +125 there, we’re better off just playing this game.
I’m putting a little cash on the Titans +160 moneyline, but otherwise I’m going to sit this one out and look for an opportunity to live bet either team that gets behind enough to give me serious odds. I’m especially looking for a chance to bet Tennessee at +200 or better within a score in the second half, since that’s where they’re at their strongest.
This game should be close and contested down to the wire.
LEAN: Titans +160