Indianapolis Colts (0-2, 1-1 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (1-1, 1-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Colts 21, Titans 26.5
Spread/Total Movements: 4.5 to 5.5, 50 to 47.5
Weather: 80 degrees, 0% chance of rain, 5 mph
Colts Injuries to Watch: T Braden Smith (foot/thumb, out), QB Carson Wentz (ankles, questionable), WR Parris Campbell (abdomen, probable)
Titans Injuries to Watch: TE Anthony Firkser (knee, out), CB Caleb Farley (shoulder, out), Bud Dupree (knee, questionable)
Brolley’s Colts Stats and Trends
The road team has covered in three straight games in this series with all three games being decided by 14+ points while going over the total.
The Colts are 5-1 ATS in their last six road games and they’re 6-1 towards overs in their last seven road games.
Carson Wentz is dealing with ankle sprains to both of his ankles so Jacob Eason and/or Brett Hundley could be forced into the lineup. Eason scored negative fantasy points in relief, completing 2/5 passes for 15 yards with an interception. He completed 66.1% of his passes (41 of 62) in the preseason but for just 6.3 YPA (389 yards) with no touchdowns or INTs in three games. The Colts do get a matchup against a Titans defense that’s allowed 632/6 passing to Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson to open the season.
Michael Pittman burned everyone with 3/29 receiving before going off one everyone’s benches with 8/123 on a career-high 12 targets in a brutal matchup against the Rams. He’s run routes on 97% of Indy’s dropbacks through two games and his aDOT sits at 11.4 yards after it sat at 7.0 yards last season. He may have to contend with Eason this week but the Titans are at least giving up by far the most FPG (64.9) to WRs in the early going.
After leading the Colts passing attack in Week 1, Zach Pascal produced again with 5/38/1 receiving on six targets against the Rams, which gives him 35.1 FP through two weeks. He played 91% of the snaps last week and he’s a close second in route (82) behind Pittman (85). Pascal has three scores so far and the Titans have given up a league-high six TDs to WRs.
Jack Doyle posted 5/64 receiving against the Rams in Week 2 on a healthy 22% target share (eight targets). He’s edged in front of Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson for now by running a route on 75% of Indy’s dropbacks. The Titans have been so bad covering WRs that they haven’t been tested by TEs, allowing just a three-yard catch to Gerald Everett over the first two weeks.
HC Frank Reich threw a wrench into the backfield by giving Marlon Mack five carries and a 19% snap share last week after he didn’t see the field in the season opener. Jonathan Taylor is already dealing with a struggling offensive line, turning a league-leading eight carries inside the 10-yard line into minus-1 yard without a touchdown. He also went from 6/60 receiving on seven targets in the season opener to just a two-yard catch on his lone target last week. Taylor flopped in his only matchup against the Titans last season, but Tennessee is giving up a solid 86.0 rushing yards per game and 4.1 YPC to RBs through two weeks.
Nyheim Hines went from 15/82 scrimmage on 45% of the snaps in the season opener to just 2/22 scrimmage on 37% of the snaps in Week 2. Hines totaled 22/99/1 rushing and 13/111/1 receiving in two matchups against the Titans last season.
Brolley’s Titans Stats and Trends
Tennessee snapped a four-game ATS losing streak last week.
The Titans are now 23-8-1 toward overs since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback.
Derrick Henry looked headed for a second disappointing fantasy performance in as many weeks when he was stuck with 13/35 rushing after the first two quarters against the Seahawks. Henry rumbled for 22/147/3 rushing in the final 35 minutes as Tennessee erased a 15-point deficit in their Week 2 victory. Henry also caught all six of his targets for 55 yards on his way to finishing with a week-best 47.7 FP. He already has nine catches on 10 targets through two games, and he’s well on pace to smash his previous receiving bests in targets (31) and receptions (19), which he set last season, as well as his 206 receiving yards from 2019. Henry is back on track after a slow first six quarters to the season, and he gets a matchup against a Colts’ defense this week that he posted 46/281/3 rushing against in two games last season.
Ryan Tannehill and the passing game also got back on track with 347 yards on 40 attempts (8.7 YPA) after logging just 212 yards on 35 attempts (6.1 YPA) in the season opener. Henry hogged the touchdowns to himself last week, but the Titans got back to throwing off play action at a 30% clip after doing it just 6% of the time last week. Tannehill accounted for just 368/2 passing in two matchups against the Colts last season, but the Colts have been ripped for six passing TDs in the early going.
A.J. Brown had a miserable performance against the Seahawks last week, dropping three passes on his way to 3/43 receiving on nine targets. He’s now finished with under 50 receiving yards and five catches in each of the first two games, but he's seen 17 targets and he scored a touchdown in the season opener. He had two very different games against the Colts last season, posted 4/98/1 receiving in Week 12 and just 1/21 in Week 10.
Julio Jones had a rough first showing with the Titans in Week 1, and HC Mike Vrabel called out his new star WR after the blowout loss for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Julio got the message and he put together a much better performance in Tennessee’s comeback victory over the Seahawks in Week 2. He posted 6/128 receiving on eight targets (20% share), and Jones could’ve had a much bigger day but he had a six-yard touchdown taken off the board on a controversial booth overturn. The Colts have been ripped for the sixth-most FPG (48.8) by WRs through two weeks.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-2 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 32.1 (26th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 67.5 (11th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 61.1% (17th) | Run: 38.9% (16th)
Week 1-2 – Pace: 26.3 (13th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 75 (3rd)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 53.3% (26th) | Run: 46.7% (7th)
The Colts have been overrated by the market and should be 0-2 straight up and ATS if it weren’t for a horrific Rams special teams fumble to start the fourth quarter last week. Now, potentially without Carson Wentz (ankles), Indianapolis is in a precarious situation with three-straight tough road draws beginning with division rival Titans and then the Dolphins and Ravens in Weeks 4-5. Compounding the problem is the fact the Colts have historically struggled in the Frank Reich era as underdogs against stiffer competition. Since 2018, Indianapolis has been an underdog in 21-of-53 games (including postseason) and they are 5-17 straight-up. Yikes. This is a blow-up spot for Derrick Henry, who has been incredibly game-script dependent but also absolutely incredible when the Titans win. Over Tennessee’s last six wins dating back to last year, Henry’s fantasy point totals are: 20.2 > 38.5 > 36.2 > 25.2 > 37 > 47.7 for a face-melting average of 34.1 FPG. Is that good? Because it seems kinda good. The Titans are 5-point favorites and that could get to 6 or 7 if and when Wentz is ruled out. Overall, this game is right in the middle of the pack in adjusted combined pace/plays and could end up being even more lopsided (in the Titans favor) if the Colts are forced to start Jacob Eason. All of this leads to King Henry feasting again.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I’m not 100% convinced that Titan WR AJ Brown is 100% healthy following off-season surgery on both knees. So assuming Colt CB Xavier Rhodes will miss Week 3, the alignment percentages through two games inform us that Julio Jones will work across from right corner T.J. Carrie on at least two-thirds of his routes. Given Carrie’s struggles this year and Julio’s history against the coverages the Colts have typically played this year, he’ll be Ryan Tannehill’s go-to option on Sunday, and for however long it takes for Brown to get up to speed with his health.
We have nothing in the way of data to decide what the connection between Michael Pittman and Jacob Eason will look like — Eason is likely to draw the start if Carson Wentz is ruled out, though that’s not a guarantee given the legendary Brett Hundley has seen first-team reps this week. But I’m willing to take a shot on Pittman this week anyway — he’ll face the struggling Jackrabbit Jenkins on at least half of his routes.
#Colts practice squad QB Brett Hundley took the majority of starter reps in practice Wednesday, and he and Jacob Eason may both play against the #Titans if Carson Wentz is out, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 23, 2021
There’s still hope Wentz (ankles) can play. Final decision may not come until Sunday.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
This is overall a simple game to break down.
Based on history, matchups should be won with Derrick Henry this week. The Titans are heavy home favorites, and if Carson Wentz gets ruled out on Sunday, the line is likely to rise. We know what this means for the Big Dog — he’s likely to produce three times more than he would than if the Titans lost. Let’s just hope they don’t lay an egg, because Henry is in the mix to be the overall RB1. Oh, should I mention that he’s run for over 100 yards in each of his last three games with the Colts (including a loss) and he’s coming off a career-high 6 targets?
Derrick Henry in the Titans last six wins: 34.1 FPG (!!!)— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) September 21, 2021
Henry in the Titans last six losses: 11.2 FPG
I’m still playing AJ Brown, but I do share Wes’ concerns that things aren’t entirely right, and the projected gamescript doesn’t necessarily bear out that he and Ryan Tannehill need to hook up a lot in this game. Both he and Julio Jones are high-upside but volatile WR2s. Tannehill is a low-end QB1 in a favorable matchup, but he might not have to do anything, so be warned.
For the Colts… how do you feel good about anyone?
Even if Carson Wentz plays — he’s a game-time decision — he’ll have two bum ankles, behind a disappointing offensive line that will again be without RT Braden Smith (foot). WR Michael Pittman and RB Nyheim Hines have upside, but are volatile — Pittman was WR77 in Week 1 but WR13 in Week 2, while Hines was RB19 in Week 1 but RB59 in Week 2. Based on an admittedly small sample, I don’t think Jacob Eason getting the start would be great for Hines — Eason has a big arm, and his 12.6 aDOT is most among all QBs this year (of course, on just five throws). And Brett Hundley stinks.
This RB rotation is a mess anyway, and I’m a little bit concerned about Jonathan Taylor. HC Frank Reich went with a full-blown three-man committee at RB in Week 2 with Taylor seeing 45% of the snaps, Hines at 37%, and Marlon Mack at 19%. Taylor had just a single target in Week 2 after 7 in Week 1. And most concerning have been Taylor’s goal-line struggles. Whether you believe TD regression is coming, if this is just bad luck, or it’s the offensive line’s fault, it’s potentially the reason Reich went to a committee in Week 2. Taylor is a volatile RB2, though I think Hundley might actually be a positive for the run game if he draws the start.
Jonathan Taylor has 8 carries inside the opponents' 10-yard-line. That leads the NFL.— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 20, 2021
He has turned those 8 carries into -1 yards. And no TDs.
By the way, the Colts have scored just 3 TD this season. ALL THREE have been scored by The Rascal Zach Pascal. Sick of this.