In the final game of the regular season, the Tennessee Titans host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts with the winner advancing to the playoffs by securing the final Wild-Card berth in the AFC.
The final Sunday Night Football telecast of the regular season is essentially a playoff game with the winner advancing to the postseason.
This is a rematch between two AFC South rivals. The Titans lost to the Colts 38-10 in mid-November when Andrew Luck torched them for three touchdowns.
Indianapolis Colts (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-6)
Kickoff: 5:20pm PT
Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Point Spread: IND -3.5
The Titans are a home dog despite a 6-1 record in Nashville this season. Meanwhile, the Colts are only 3-4 on the road. The Titans won four in a row, while the Colts are riding a three-game winning streak.
According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Colts are 30-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. The Titans are 80-1 odds to win Super Bowl LIII.
The Colts started the season 1-5 under rookie head coach Frank Reich. The Colts magically turned everything around in Week 7. Since then, the Colts won eight of their last nine games. Quarterback Andrew Luck bounced back from his early-season woes and has been on fire the second half of the season. At one point, Luck threw three touchdowns in eight consecutive games.
Over the last three weeks, the Colts defeated two playoff-caliber teams with wins over the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. The Colts stunned the Cowboys and pitched a 23-0 shutout.
The Colts rely on their big three: QB Andrew Luck, WR TY Hilton, and RB Marlon Mack.
After missing last season with a shoulder injury, Luck shook off the early-season rust. Overall, he tossed 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. Luck only threw six picks over his last nine games. Luck has an undefeated 10-0 record against the Titans.
TY Hilton’s health will be a major factor in this game. Luck’s favorite wide receiver said he will play, but he’s been nursing an ankle injury. Hilton caught 6 touchdowns in 13 games this season. Although opposing defenses kept Hilton out of the end zone over the last six games, he racked up significant yardage with three 100-yard games. Over the last six games, Hilton is averaging 7.5 receptions and 129.8 yards per game. In a 24-21 victory over the Houston Texans, Hilton torched them for nine catches worth 199 yards.
Marlon Mack (789 yards, 8 TD) emerged as the go-to running back in the second half of the season. Mack unleashed three 100-yard games including 139 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Stingy D in Nashville
The Titans have the second-best defense in the NFL with only 18.0 points allowed per game. They boast a top 6 passing defense and a mediocre run defense.
The Titans will be tested with stopping Andrew Luck. The revamped Colts generate 26.7 points per game, which is sixth-best in the NFL.
A smothering defense is what keeps the Titans in every game. They allowed only 11.75 points per game during their current four-game winning streak.
The Titans are 7-1 this season if they score more than 20 points. It sounds easier said than done, but they are 1-6 when they score less than 19 points.
Tale of Two Heismans
Similar to Oregon QB Justin Herbert and his decision to stay in school next season, Marcus Mariota opted to stick around and play his senior season. Mariota went on to win the Heisman Trophy that year and led the Oregon Ducks to the national championship game. The Titans picked Mariota with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
In four seasons, Mariota played 56 games with multiple injuries. Although he only missed one game this season, he has been nursing an elbow, thumb, shoulder, and neck injury. He missed practices over the last couple of weeks while recovering from a stinger after injuring his elbow in a game against the Washington Redskins.
Mariota rushed for two touchdowns and threw 11 touchdowns through 14 games. He threw 24 touchdowns over his last 29 games, which is not very impressive considering Baker Mayfield threw 24 touchdowns in only 13 games of action this season. During Luck’s hot streak, he threw 27 touchdowns in an 8-game span.
Despite the lack of passing scores, Mariota did a better job protecting the ball and limiting turnovers with only 8 interceptions.
No one has been able to stop Titans RB Derrick Henry, who has been averaging 130.7 yards per game over the previous three weeks. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner scored seven touchdowns over the last three games.
DERRICK HENRY WENT BEASTMODE!!! 😱😱😱
99 YARDS. #TitanUp
— NFL (@NFL) December 7, 2018
Henry obliterated the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football with four touchdowns and 238 rushing yards. If the Colts can stuff Henry, then they will put themselves in a good spot to win the game.