No, you aren’t starring alongside Bill Murray in the sequel to Groundhog Day. That was in fact Derrick Henry streaking down the sideline, stiff-arming defenders on his way to a long touchdown run for the second straight year in Nissan Stadium against the Jags.
In case you missed it, Henry’s dominance of the Jaguars continued Sunday, with Henry totaling 159 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, emphasized by a 74-yd touchdown run in the third quarter. I’m not sure what the Jaguars did to piss off Henry in his childhood, but whatever it was, Titans fans are happy it happened.
Past Titans’ teams have found ways to lose these types of games, where they go in as a favorite and a loss would drastically hurt their playoff chances, only to come out flat and watch the game slip away. But since Ryan Tannehill has taken over at quarterback, this team looks different. I don’t mean to harp on Tannehill’s play every week, but he keeps giving me new reasons to talk about him. He was responsible for four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) on Sunday, and continues to keep his completion percentage at a career-high 72 percent.
The Titans are now one game behind the division-leader Houston Texans, and even with this week’s opponent and division-rival Indianapolis Colts. The Titans always knew they would have to vault past the Colts if they wanted to make the playoffs this year, and here we are in Week 13 with the biggest game of the year coming against a team that’s beaten the Titans 11 of the last 13 matchups.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
Game Time: Noon CT
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana (Lucas Oil Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Jay Feely
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan
Over/ Under: 43.5
Stat Corner with Matt:
This week I’d like to focus on one simple number: 8. It’s the number of sacks Harold Landry has through 12 weeks of the season and puts him on pace for 11.5 sacks on the season, which would most likely land him in the top 10-15 in the NFL.
After an inconsistent start, Landry has tallied a sack in the last four games. This is what Mike Vrabel and John Robinson were hoping for when they drafted him 41st overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Since 2010, only two players have broken the double-digit sack mark for the Titans: Jurrell Casey in 2013 and Brian Orakpo in 2016, both totaling 10.5.
Landry will need to keep causing havoc in the backfield for this team to have success going forward, especially with Cameron Wake headed to the Injured Reserve with an undisclosed injury. Wake hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 1, but he consistently creates pressure from the edge, something Sharif Finch and Reggie Gilbert haven’t been able to say about their own play so far this season. But Gilbert, Finch, and Kamalei Correa will need to find another gear to help out Landry on the pass rush.
3 Things to Watch:
-TY Hilton’s Health: TY Hilton has been hampered with injuries throughout the season, and this week is no different. He played in last week’s matchup against the Texans, but finished with only three catches for 18 yards. Hilton told the media that his injured calf, which kept him out in Weeks 9-11, “tightened up” on him during the game in Week 12 and has created doubt about his status this Sunday. Not having him for this game against the Titans would be a massive loss for the Colts’ offense, a unit that will already be without Eric Ebron and Marlon Mack. Without those three guys, the Titans’ defense’s job gets a bit easier.
-Titans’ Offensive Gameplan: Will this be another Derrick Henry game, or will they come out throwing with Tannehill? My prediction: the offense will look very similar to last Sunday’s game. The signing and immediate utilization of fullback Khari Blasingame is a sign that this is what Arthur Smith wants this offense to look like going forward. A heavy dose of Henry and effective play action game. According to Robert Mays of The Ringer, Tannehill used play action 64 percent of his drop backs on Sunday, completing 10 passes on 10 attempt for 21.9 yards per attempt and ran in two touchdowns. Not a bad idea to keep using that efficient formula.
-Titans’ Pass Rush: Like I said above, this Titans’ pass rush has been a one-man show this year. Landry has eight sacks but Logan Ryan is No. 2 on the team with only 3.5 sacks. And now Wake is out for the season, forcing Sharif Finch, Reggie Gilbert and Kamalei Correa into much bigger roles. I expect the Colts to devote two guys at all times in trying to stop Landry, so someone else on that defensive line will need to step up and try to bother Jacoby Brissett as much as possible.
My Prediction: Titans 23, Colts 20
Picking the Titans over the Colts just doesn’t feel right. I’ve watched the Titans find ways to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory against this Colts team many times in my lifetime. But like I said, I think this Titans team is different and is playing with a confidence we don’t see very often from the boys in Two Tone Blue. I think Henry gains over 100 yards for the third straight game and the Titans walk away in second place in the AFC South.
By Matt Gray (104-5 The Zone)