Titans riding wave of momentum after blow-out road victory in Cleveland as division foe Indianapolis comes to Nashville
The Tennessee Titans felt disrespected heading into Cleveland for their Week 1 opener against the Browns, so they did something about it. Mike Vrabel's team thoroughly dismantled the much-hyped Browns and capitalized off of a bevy of miscues and blunders by Cleveland on their way to a 30-point road victory.
The Indianapolis Colts were everybody's favorite to win the AFC South heading into the season, but that expectation has dwindled for many in light of Andrew Luck retiring. The Colts, coming off of an overtime road defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers will look to find that disrespect card and grab a road win this week at Nissan Stadium.
Indianapolis at Tennessee
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Tennessee -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Colts offensive line
Indianapolis could very well lay claim to having the best offensive line in the NFL, although one can certainly make a case for Dallas' front five. The Colts' ability to control the line of scrimmage will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game Sunday afternoon. The left side is anchored by tackle Anthony Costanzo, left guard Quenton Nelson is as dominant as it gets, and Ryan Kelly is the anchor at center. If this group can pave the way for another big day from running back Marlon Mack (league-high 174 rushing yards in Week 1) and protect quarterback Jacoby Brissett against the always aggressive Titans defense run by coordinator Dean Pees then the Colts could steal a road win in the AFC South. Tennessee's ability to get pressure on Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, sacking him five times, was a big key last week as the Titans also finished with three interceptions.
2. Titans offensive line
Much like Indianapolis, the Titans will have to establish the line of scrimmage, especially in the absence of left tackle Taylor Lewan who is in the midst of serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the league's policy on the use of performance-enhancing substances. Last week, offensive coordinator Arthur Smith schemed around the deficiencies on the line and used a variety of play-action passes and screen passes to counter Cleveland's pass-rushing duo of Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. Garrett still wound up with two sacks (Browns had four total), but Tennessee finished with 339 total yards and no turnovers. This week's focus will be on Colts outside linebacker Justin Houston, who recorded a sack in his first game with his new team last week, and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Indianapolis was able to sack Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers four times and was credited with nine total hits on him in Week 1.
3. Titans spreading the ball around
Going into this season, the expectation was that Tennessee's passing game would focus on the trio of wide receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries and tight end Delanie Walker. Well in Week 1, someone forgot to tell rookie A.J. Brown that he needed to wait his turn. The second-round pick out of Ole Miss made the most of his first three career receptions, as they covered 100 yards. He was able to have an instant impact despite only getting limited reps in training camp and the preseason because of injury.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is entering a critical season as it relates to his future with the team, has the best collection of weapons he's had since arriving in Nashville and it behooves him to continue to spread the wealth. Between Walker, Davis, Humphries, Brown and others (running backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, tight end Jonnu Smith to name a few), the ability to work in so many different players will make it difficult for the Colts to game plan against a Titans offense that will still look to establish the run (123 yards on 28 carries in Week 1 vs. Cleveland).
The Titans defeated the Colts twice in 2017 when Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback as Andrew Luck was recovering from shoulder surgery. But that team's talent level pares in comparison to the 2019 Colts, thanks to the moves made in the draft and free agency by general manager Chris Ballard.
These two teams know each other quite well and this contest could come down to which team is able to establish their No. 1 running back. Can Marlon Mack duplicate what he did last week against the Chargers? Can Derrick Henry be a dual-threat back like he was last week against the Browns?
Expect this game to be a tight one going down to the wire. The x-factor? Nissan Stadium. Despite attendance issues, the Titans have protected home field with 16 wins in their last 20 games in Nashville. They'll do the same again Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Titans 24, Colts 20
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.