Pace, injuries give value to the UNDER for Sunday’s Titans-Colts clash

Titans RB Derrick Henry
Titans RB Derrick Henry (JEFF HAYNES/AP IMAGES FOR PANINI)
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The Titans are just 2-13 straight up and 4-11 against the spread against the Colts since the start of the 2012 season, but a new presence under center makes Tennessee a serious threat to pass Indianapolis in the AFC South standings on Sunday as a 2-point road underdog (1 p.m. ET/Noon CT, CBS).

Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback for Marcus Mariota in Week 7, the Titans are 4-1 SU and ATS and average 29.4 points per game as opposed to 16.3 before, 237.6 passing yards per game now after averaging 187.7 before. Tannehill has completed 72.1% of his passes for 1,420 yards, 9.2 yards per attempt with a 10:4 TD:INT ratio. Tannehill’s Titans now lead NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage (72.4), with 13 TDs in last 14 trips, but face regression without veteran tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) the rest of the season.

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Tannehill, who is also is tied for third in the NFL in passer rating (111.4), wasn’t on the field in the first meeting between the Titans and Colts this season, when Indy pulled out a 19-17 win as a 3-point road underdog despite two turnovers and two missed extra points by Adam Vinatieri. The Colts defense, which has not allowed more than 20 points in any of its last three games, logged four sacks and five quarterback hits, limiting the Titans to 119 net passing yards. The Week 2 game easily went UNDER 43.5, and the market as the same total for the Week 13 matchup.

But with T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack and Eric Ebron all out for the Colts and both run-first teams ranking in the bottom-10 in slowest pace, UNDER has contrarian value with 63% tickets and 70% money on the OVER as of Friday’s writing, according to Sports Insights. Helping the UNDER’s chances is a Titans defense ranking fifth against the run in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and both teams dealing with kicking issues. Tennessee signed kicker Ryan Santoso to the team’s 53-man roster on Wednesday, but still have Ryan Succop (0-3 FG, 11-12 XP) on the roster.

Kickers could be key in the expected tight matchup, according to veteran oddsmaker Robert Walker.

“This has field-goal game written all over it,” Walker said on this week’s edition of The Bet Pro Football Podcast presented by BetIndiana. “I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game even though the total is up to 43.5 (from a 42 opener). Tennessee’s identity has definitely changed as they went to (Ryan) Tannehill as opposed to (Marcus) Mariota. They’re definitely opening it up and scoring more, but I wouldn’t go OVER that number.”

UNDER has been a profitable bet for the Colts in the past against teams with a winning record, going 14-3 in the last 17 and is 14-6 in Colts’ last 20 games vs. AFC South opponents.

The Colts defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 games, dating to late in the 2017 season and slowing Derrick Henry on Sunday is paramount for the Colts to come away with the victory. While traditional stats have Indy’s run defense ranked eighth against the run, allowing just 97 yards per game, its ranked 19th in DVOA. Henry is nine yards away from his second straight 1,000-yard season and has run for 1,616 yards over his last 16 games.

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