NFL Thursday

hi-res-158030618-chris-johnson-of-the-the-tennessee-titans-runs-with-the_crop_northINDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-3) at TENNESSEE TITANS (4-5)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Indianapolis -3 (-115) & 43.5

Opening Line & Total: Colts -3 & 43

AFC South foes coming off embarrassing home losses meet Thursday when the Colts visit the Titans.

Last Sunday, Indy turned the ball over five times in a 38-8 loss to the Rams while Tennessee had four giveaways and fell 29-27 to the winless Jaguars. The Titans also lost starting QB Jake Locker to a season-ending foot injury in that defeat, and will revert back to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who is 0-3 with significant playing time this year. The Colts have dominated this series in the past nine meetings, going 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS), including three straight wins by outrushing Tennessee 474 to 275. However, Indy rushed for a pathetic 18 yards on 14 carries in last week’s loss, while the Titans allowed only 54 yards on 30 carries. The good news for Fitzpatrick is that the Colts could be missing three defensive backs in S Delano Howell (neck) and CBs Greg Toler (head) and Josh Gordy (groin), who are all listed as questionable. Indy has two huge trends in its favor, as the team is 7-0 ATS after an SU loss since QB Andrew Luck joined the team, and 9-1 ATS in Thursday night games since 1992. But Tennessee benefits from two negative trends concerning the Colts, who are only 31-53 ATS (37%) after being outrushed by 75+ yards in their last game since 1992, and 9-24 ATS (27%) when facing a marginal losing team (40% to 49% win pct.) in that same timeframe.

Colts QB Andrew Luck threw 3 INT last week, which was quite uncharacteristic considering he had thrown just three picks over his first eight games combined. Indianapolis has not been a turnover-prone team, as before last week’s five giveaways, the club had just six turnovers in the first eight games combined. While Luck certainly has the ability and track record to bounce back strong on Thursday, he did not play well against the Titans last year with 493 passing yards (6.9 YPA), 2 TD and 3 INT while being sacked six times in the two games. And that was when he had the services of top WR Reggie Wayne, who will miss the rest of 2013 with a torn ACL. However, second-year pro WR T.Y. Hilton has assumed the role of go-to receiver, catching 14 passes for 251 yards and 3 TD in the two games with Wayne out of action. But for the Colts to win this football game, RB Trent Richardson will have to run much better than he has been lately. In the past three contests, Richardson has a pitiful 59 yards on 27 carries (2.2 YPC), which includes his two yards on five attempts last week. No. 2 RB Donald Brown would lead the NFL in yards per carry (5.9 YPC) if he qualified, rumbling for 243 yards on just 41 totes. But he has carried the football only eight times in the past two games despite the struggles of Richardson. The Indy defense ranks ninth in the league in scoring (21.4 PPG allowed), thanks to a strong third-down defense (37.2% conversions, 11th in NFL) and red-zone efficiency (52.2%, 12th in league). In four road games, the Colts have given up a paltry 13.2 PPG and 329 total YPG. However, this unit gives up 8.1 yards per pass attempt (5th-worst in NFL) and 4.4 yards per carry (9th-worst in league) overall. The defense also needs to make more plays, tallying just three sacks and one takeaway over the past two contests.

Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is just 3-9 in his past dozen starts, throwing for only 6.7 YPA, 13 TD and 12 INT. In his two starts this season, Fitzpatrick has 6.0 YPA, 1 TD and 4 INT, but to be fair, those games were against the Chiefs and Seahawks, who both have excellent defenses. Fitzpatrick also has a weak crop of receivers with WRs Kendall Wright (580 rec. yds, 1 TD) and Nate Washington (468 rec. yds, 2 TD) as his best options. Tennessee will try to win this game on the ground with its two-headed rushing attack of Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene. Although the duo combined for a paltry 52 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC) last week, they have both had success against the Colts. Johnson has totaled 746 yards in the past seven meetings with Indy, while Greene destroyed the Colts last season when he was with the Jets, carrying the ball 32 times for 161 yards (5.0 YPC) and 3 TD. Tennessee’s defense has been very good against the pass (211 YPG, 8th in NFL), but has not stopped the run as effectively (115 YPG, 21st in league). Red-zone defense has also been a problem (65%, 3rd-worst in NFL), but the Titans have done a great job getting off the field on third downs (33%, 5th in league). They have also created a healthy number of big plays, forcing multiple turnovers five times in the past six games.



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