Colts at Titans: Intel Report


The Indianapolis Colts are desperate for a win, luckily they exist in a quasi-football realm known as the AFC South. The Colts head to Nashville this week to face the Tennessee Titans, a team they managed to manhandle with backups last season.

The Colts haven’t lost to the Titans since 2011 (the gas leak year). Since Andrew Luck took over the team, the Colts have beaten the Titans by an average margin of 10 points. Last season, the Titans featured one of the worst defenses in the NFL and couldn’t move the ball to save their lives. That resulted in the second pick in the draft which they used on Marcus Mariota

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The Titans are 1-1, having beaten the only worse than them in football last year (the Bucs) and then losing on the road to the Browns. The Titans were on the road for both games, so it will be interesting to see how this team plays at home. We only have two games to pull stats from, but we’re starting to get an idea of what these teams are going to look like (except the Colts who remain bafflingly bad on offense).

Editor’s note: DVOA and DYAR stats provided by Football Outsiders. Plus/minus grades via Pro Football Focus. DYAR is a player with more total value while DVOA is value per play.

The Titans on Offense

Through two games, the Titans have averaged 28 points per game (both on the road). This team is generally going to be as good as Mariota lets them be, and while his stats looked good against the Browns he also took a staggering seven sacks in the loss. In the win versus the Bucs, Mariota was nearly flawless (earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week) and Jameis Winston spotted the team some early points as well.

After Week 2, the Titans ranked ninth in offensive efficiency, seventh when passing the ball but 18th in the run game. Your offense will be pretty efficient when you score a touchdown on 5-of-10 drives in the season opener. Against the Browns, the pass rush resulted in two Mariota fumbles (with Terrance West fumbling away another one).

Basically what we can see between these two games is that if the protection holds (and Mariota gets rid of the ball quickly) and they don’t turn the ball over the offense will produce. That line could hold true for basically any offense in the country, but with a rookie QB it becomes especially true as their team will fold under extra pressure.

The offensive line hasn’t played particularly well either (outside of LT Taylor Lewan). The Titans are not a very good power running team, but excel at getting backs off the edges and into space. They outgained both opponents on the ground (especially the Browns) but are still 1-1 because of a bad Week 2 from the QB.

What That Means for the Colts on Defense 

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The Colts have to figure out a way to generate a pass rush on Mariota. They need to thoroughly harass the young QB which will get him off his spot and force mistakes. The defense hasn’t been a big issue this season (save for all the injuries at the cornerback spot).

Whether or not the Colts can bring this pressure, likely from the blitz, will be determined by the health of the secondary. All three starters could be out and that would leave a lot of easier matchups for the Titans’ receivers. Fans don’t need to worry about the run defense as it has been extremely good the past two weeks.

The Titans on Defense

The Titans are interesting on defense. They haven’t exactly played great offensive teams, shutting down Winston while getting lit up by Johnny Manziel. They have Dick LeBeau calling the plays, and while he was generally considered a genius in Pittsburgh he also had a team stocked with talent for most of his years there.

The Titans are currently fourth in DVOA, ranking third against the pass and 17th versus the run. Defensive end Jurrell Casey is still playing at an elite level, and has been disruptive in the backfield. The Titans also added Brian Orakpo, who is hoping to sort of revitalize his career (and stay healthy).

There are solid pieces on the defense, but it is tough to say whether or not this unit will ultimately play well together. The road win was impressive, but giving up 21 points to Cleveland mostly off a few big plays isn’t (the fourth TD was a punt return). I’d say that Sunday will be a true test for the Titans defense but we have no idea what the Colts offense will look like.

What That Means for the Colts on Offense

I honestly have no idea. Through two games, Luck and the offense have looked terrible. The good news is that the Titans are not anywhere near as good as the Bills or Jets on defense. The efficiency numbers might suggest otherwise, but the personnel isn’t nearly of the same caliber.

The Titans are once again vulnerable on the ground which should mean a big game for Frank Gore. If he can get going it will force the Titans to slow down their pass rush and open them up to the play action.

Really it boils down to Luck playing better. Through two games, he has regressed and needs to handle the pressure better. If he plays well, the Colts win this game in a blowout.

Next: After Further Review: Colts vs Jets