When you look at one of Sunday's NFL games, which may determine first place in the AFC South at the end of the day, you may think you're in a time warp. That's because in a league that is dominated by the pass, the running game is likely to be very prominent. It's a duel of great backs as Derrick Henry and the Indianapolis Colts take on Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts. Game time is set for 1 PM ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
This is the way the people at BetOnline look at it:
Indianapolis Colts -3 (-112)
Tennessee Titans +3 (-108)
Over 43 points -110
Under 43 points -110
Both of these teams have something very much in common, in the sense that they came off unbelievably embarrassing experiences to score upsets last week.
The Colts had gone into Jacksonville - always a place where they have problems - and came away a 24-0 loser. The Titans played a Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills and had a nightmarish result, losing 41-7.
Then the next week (last Sunday), the Colts scored a 20-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, with Matt Ryan throwing for 222 yards. And the Titans beat Las Vegas 24-22, as they got 143 rushing-receiving yards from Henry.
What we were figuring with the Colts last week was that if there was any occasion when they should have really been on red alert, it was on that trip to Jacksonville, as it was the Jags who kept them out of the playoffs with an upset win in the season finale. But their non-response in that situation led us to thinking this could be a long season.
Well, instead they pop up and beat a favored Chiefs team, although we should mention that they had only 259 net yards from scrimmage.
With Michael Pittman back after an injury, this was, at least on the surface, a more formidable offense (he had 72 yards in receptions). And maybe the question at this point involves how much Matt Ryan has left. He was seen as a primary reason the Colts were a favorite in the AFC South. But he was shaky in the first two games, one of which was a tie against listless Houston.
The constant should be Taylor, who came on like a monster during Indy's drive (albeit unsuccessful) toward a playoff berth last year. It can be argued that he has yet to hit his stride yet. But he is the kind of running back who can absolutely carry a team.
The same can be said for Henry, although the former Heisman Trophy winner has considerably more mileage on him. Henry has 192 yards on the ground thus far, while Taylor has 286. And yes, we said that Taylor hasn't really hit his stride.
So maybe we're implying that the Colts have more upside at this point in time. And that may be even more pronounced as All-Pro linebacker Shaquille (formerly Darius) Leonard has been cleared to play (had back surgery in the off-season), while Taylor Lewan, Tennessee's Pro Bowl offensive tackle, is out for the season.
While the Titans wound up the #1 AFC playoff seed, there were a number of reasons why the Colts missed out on the post-season. One of those reasons is that they were swept by Tennessee. So there is a "payback" motive here as well. They missed that calling in Jacksonville, but if they can get closer to their ceiling, the sky's the limit. So in a measured recommendation, we'll lay the points.
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