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NFL Week 17 Sunday Night Football – Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans Betting Preview and Favorite Picks – 12/30/2018

BroncosvsRaiders

  • When: Sunday, December 30, 2018 @ 8:20 pm EST
  • Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
  • (Betting odds from Sportsbetting AG and current as of 12/28 at 9 am)
Team Point Spread Moneyline Total (over-under)
Tennessee Titans + 3  +105 + 163 Un 43.5 -110
Indianapolis Colts – 3  -125 – 183 Ov 43.5 -110

This season, I’ve been writing 3-4 articles per week sharing my picks and predictions. I cover the Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night NFL matchups each week as well as a Pick(s) of the Week column in which I share my full slate of bets for the week.

Make sure to get the most favorable odds at the best NFL betting sites to maximize your chances of winning and returns. Thus far, through fifteen weeks of the 2018 NFL season, these are my results:

  • Overall Record: 166 – 140 – 3 (11 NFL futures bets pending)
  • Winning Percentage: 54.2%
  • Total Profit: $1,576.69
  • Total Return: 5.70%

The 2018-19 NFL regular season comes to an end on Sunday night in Tennessee in what’s essentially a playoff game. The AFC South has been the hottest division in football down the final stretch of the year, and now in the last game of the season, these two rivals will compete for the final AFC playoff spot. Both of these organizations are tied with 9-6 records so the result of Houston’s game will decide if this Sunday night matchup is for the Wild Card or divisional title.

The Titans will have the honors of hosting this contest, though the visiting Colts are three-point favorites. Indianapolis is riding a three-game winning streak that’s kept their season alive, including a win over the division-leading Houston Texans. Now, depending on how Sunday plays out, they could finish third, fourth, or sixth in the AFC playoff race, or they could miss the postseason altogether.

Tennessee has a slightly better road to the playoffs, but it will take a lot of help. It’s still possible for the home team to have a first-round bye if the Texans lose, Patriots lose, and Ravens lose or tie while the Titans beat the Colts. If New England wins, but the Texans and Ravens don’t, Tennessee moves into third place, giving them the AFC South crown.

So, as you can see, there’s a ton riding on this weekend’s slate of NFL action. By the time these two squads take the field, the postseason picture will be much more clear, but no matter what this one is a single-elimination playoff game in Week 17 of the regular season.

NFL Week 17 Sunday Night Football Quick Picks

If you just want some quick notes on the game and my picks, without all of the breakdowns and rambling, I’ll summarize the key points of my article here. These are critical variables, stats, and/or matchup factors that I see deciding the outcome of Sunday night’s contest, as well as the bets I’m making:

  • Andrew Luck is 10-0 against the Tennessee Titans in his NFL career.
  • Since returning in Week 10, TY Hilton leads the NFL in receiving with 856 yards, and a minimum of 77-yards receiving in every game.
  • Derrick Henry has 12 touchdowns in the last nine games.
  • Since Week 10, Indianapolis is holding opposing RBs to 71.6-yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry.
  • Marcus Mariota is “questionable” with an injured neck so Blaine Gabbert may start in his place.
  • Chester Rogers saw 7 targets last week and spends 90% of his snaps lined up in the slot, where injured CB Logan Ryan won’t be available to defend him.

My picks for this game:

  • Colts -3 at -125 betting odds
  • Over 43.5 at -112 betting odds

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The Perfect Way to End an Incredible Season

This has been the best NFL regular season in recent memory. There were stretches where a handful of teams separated themselves from the pack, but for the most part, no team was head and shoulders above the rest. Similarly, there were very few franchises entirely out of the running.

As a result, we’ve been blessed with meaningful, exciting football games right up until the end. So often, by Week 17 most of the playoff teams have been decided, and organizations are resting players and preparing for their postseason run. Well, few rosters have that luxury this year. Even the squads that have clenched still have seeding and home-field advantage on the line.

So, it’s only fitting that an incredible 2018-19 campaign would end with a must-win play-in game that could result in anything from a first-round bye to an AFC South division title to a Wild Card berth. Well, unless they tie, in which case both will be eliminated.

Here are the crucial Week 17 AFC games that will complete the playoff picture:

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

New England has already clinched the AFC East, but this contest versus a division rival still has a significant impact on the postseason. The Patriots are currently enjoying a round-one playoff bye, but they could potentially fall as far as the fourth spot, forcing them to face a Wild Card opponent.

  • If the Patriots win, and the Chargers and Chiefs lose, New England finishes in first place and has a round-one bye.
  • If the Patriots merely win, they’ll finish second, still giving them the bye week.
  • If New England loses to the Jets, and either the Texans, Ravens, or Titans win, the Pats would fall to the third seed.
  • If the Pats lose, and any two of the Texans, Ravens, and Titans win, New England falls to the fourth seed, where they’d have to face the Chargers or Chiefs in the Wild Card round.

Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week’s loss to the Eagles put Houston in a much more precarious playoff position, despite clinching a postseason spot. Instead of having their division locked up, there’s a possibility that the Texans fall to sixth place with a loss to the Jaguars.

  • If the Texans win, and the Chargers, Chiefs, and Patriots all lose, Houston could get the first seed, but only if they win the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over Kansas City.
  • Houston can land in the second seed with four different scenarios occurring:
    • If the Texans win and the Patriots lose or tie.
    • If the Texans win and the Chiefs and Chargers lose, with LA getting the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over KC.
    • If the Texans tie and New England loses.
    • If the Texans lose, but the Titans vs. Colts game ends in a tie, the Pats lose, Baltimore wins, and Houston wins the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over the Ravens.

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Usually, an 11-4 team with the best offense in the league would be resting their stars in Week 17. Lucky for us, in the 2018-19 season, Kansas City still has plenty to play for. They’re occupying the first seed at the moment, but could fall all the way to fifth this week.

  • To keep the top spot – and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, one of the following things must happen:
    • The Chiefs win over the Raiders.
    • The Chiefs tie, but the Chargers lose or tie vs. the Broncos.
    • The Chiefs lose, but so do the Chargers, the Patriots, and KC wins the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over Houston.
  • If the Chiefs lose and New England wins, the Patriots win the tiebreaker due to their win over KC.
  • If the Chiefs lose, they keep the second seed as long as the Chargers lose and the Pats and/or Texans lose or tie.
  • If the Chiefs and Chargers both lose or if they both tie, KC wins the AFC West but falls to the third seed.
  • Kansas City falls to the fifth seed if they lose and the LA Chargers win.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens

This Browns-Ravens game is going to be incredible. Cleveland may be mathematically eliminated, but they desperately want to play the spoiler. Baker Mayfield isn’t laying down for anyone, especially not their most hated rivals, and neither is head coach Gregg Williams.

Williams may be coaching for a contract extension and the head coaching role going forward; this team has completely turned around since Hue Jackson was fired, and this win could give them a winning season. The Ravens need this win desperately, so I don’t envy their matchup here. They could miss the postseason altogether or finish in the second seed, depending on how things play out.

  • If the Ravens win, the Patriots and Texans both lose, and the Colts and Titans don’t tie, Baltimore is the two-seed. OR
  • If the Ravens win, the Patriots and Texans both lose, and Baltimore wins the “strength of victory” tiebreaker over Houston.
  • If the Ravens win and one of either the Texans or Patriots lose, Baltimore gets the third seed.
  • If the Ravens, Texans, and Patriots all win, Baltimore gets the fourth seed.
  • If the Ravens lose and the Steelers lose, Baltimore would still get the fourth seed. The same is true if they both tie.
  • If the Ravens tie, the Steelers win, and the Colts and Titans also tie, Baltimore will get the sixth seed.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Steelers need a lot of help to reach the playoffs this season. First, they must defeat the Bengals. But, more than anything, they need the Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens. There are only a couple of scenarios that will land Pittsburgh in the postseason, with only the fourth and sixth seeds available to them.

  • If the Steelers win or tie and the Ravens lose, Pittsburgh wins the AFC North and becomes the fourth seed.
  • If the Steelers win, the Ravens win, and the Colts-Titans game ends in a tie, Pittsburgh gets the final Wild Card spot in the sixth seed.

Gambling Stats for Sunday Night’s Game

Sometimes you can find data to help with your handicapping that may not directly focus on the action on the field. Looking at how a team has traditionally performed against the spread can be worth analyzing as well. You can even take these meta stats further, looking for patterns in performances following losses, at home, and as favorites or underdogs. I was able to find these statistics at TeamRankings.com.

Tennessee Titans

  • Tennessee is 8-7-0 against the spread, covering 53.3% of the time.
  • At home, they’re 4-3-0 against the spread, covering 57.1% of the time.
  • As a home underdog, they’re 3-1-0 against the spread, covering 75% of the time.
  • Following a win, Tennessee is 5-3-0 against the spread, covering 62.5% of the time.
  • Against AFC South division rivals, the Titans are 3-2-0 against the spread, covering 60% of the time.
  • Tennessee is 7-8-0 (46.7%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • Following a win, the Titans are 3-5-0 (37.5%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • As a home underdog, Tennessee is 1-3-0 (25%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • Against AFC South division rivals, the Titans are 2-3-0 (40%) at covering the totals/over-under line.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Indianapolis is 7-7-1 against the spread, covering 50% of the time.
  • On the road, they’re 4-3-0 against the spread, covering 57.1% of the time.
  • As a road favorite, they’re 1-1-0 against the spread, covering 50% of the time.
  • Following a win, Indianapolis is 4-3-1 against the spread, covering 57.1% of the time.
  • Against AFC South division rivals, the Colts are 2-2-1 against the spread, covering 50% of the time.
  • Indianapolis is 7-8-0 (46.7%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • Following a win, the Colts are 3-5-0 (37.5%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • As a road favorite, Indianapolis is 1-1-0 (50%) at covering the totals/over-under line.
  • Against AFC South division rivals, the Colts are 2-3-0 (40%) at covering the totals/over-under line.

Away – Indianapolis Colts (-3)

This week, the Indianapolis Colts are favored by a field goal on the road in Nashville, TN. AFC South division rivals, these two teams met once before already, only a month-and-a-half ago in Week 11 at Indy. It wasn’t a particularly competitive contest either, with the Colts smashing Tennessee 38-10.

While both of these franchises have strong teams that are deserving of the postseason, Indianapolis is a terrible matchup for the Titans. The Colts defense has been sturdy against the run, but extremely vulnerable to passing attacks, allowing opposing offenses to complete over 71% of their passes. But, the Titans don’t really throw; for the last month, they’ve relied heavily on the run, and on Derrick Henry in particular.

In that Week 11 meeting, Henry only rushed for 46-yards but he also just saw nine carries. His touches have dramatically gone up since then, and if he continues to average 5.1 yards per carry as he did in that first contest, Indy could be in for a long day. However, I would expect the Colts to be keyed onto Derrick this time around, now that he’s a meaningful contributor to the offense.

The person the Titans should be most worried about is TY Hilton, who has been absolutely on fire since returning from a bye in Week 10. Neither Malcolm Butler or Adoree Jackson has any answers for the NFL’s top receiver over the past seven weeks, so if Tennessee can’t get consistent pressure on Luck, they’re in trouble.

The Titans will also miss Logan Ryan – one of the top slot corners in the game – who won’t be there to defend Chester Rogers lined up inside. Rogers was second in receiving targets last week and will continue to get great looks in the middle of the field. Tight end Eric Ebron will be available as well, though Tennessee excels at defending his position.

The most glaring statistic to me is Andrew Luck’s record versus the Tennessee Titans. As a starting QB, he’s gone 10-0 against this AFC South foe and has thrown multiple TDs in the last seven. Against a team ill-equipped to keep pace with their passing attack, and whose offense relies on the run (Indy’s defense’s strength), it’s looking like the Colts will be enjoying a return to the playoffs; at least on paper.

Injury Designations

The Colts have six impact players on the injury report but should be just fine on Sunday night. TY Hilton has said that he’s playing, which is by far the most important announcement for this Indianapolis offense. On defense, they’ve listed three cornerbacks as “questionable,” but against the Titans it will be the defensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties with the most critical job, stopping Derrick Henry.

Questionable

  • WR – TY Hilton (ankle)
  • WR – Dontrelle Inman (shoulder)
  • WR – Zach Pascal (knee)
  • CB – Quincy Wilson (calf)
  • CB – Nate Hairston (hip)
  • CB – Chris Milton (foot)

Home – Tennessee Titans (+3)

The Mike Vrabel-led Titans just won’t die! Coming into Sunday night’s game, Tennessee is riding a four-game winning streak that’s kept them in the playoff picture right down to the final contest of the NFL regular season. While they have the benefit of playing at home, the 9-6 AFC South contender will be the underdog in this one against the visiting Colts.

It feels important to note that both of these competitors are significantly better playing before their home crowd. In Nashville, the Titans are 6-1 while they’re just 3-5 on the road. Indianapolis is nearly the same, with a 3-4 road record.

However, with a “win to get in” situation in Week 17, I’m sure we’ll be getting both squads at their absolute best. I’m not sure I feel confident in home/away splits in a pressure-packed elimination game.

One major talking point for Tennessee is the possible absence of Marcus Mariota who is suffering from a neck injury that he claims made his entire throwing arm numb last week. Regardless, I’m not sure the Titans wouldn’t be better with Gabbert for this one game. The Colts are excellent at stuffing the run, but extremely beatable through the air.

Blaine Gabbert is nobody’s ideal starting QB, but he can complete some short and intermediary passes, and we’ve seen him play well in spot starts here and there. Plus, he’s not bad at keeping plays alive with his feet, although he’s no Marcus Mariota in that regard. Nevertheless, if the Titans were to win this game, I can’t say I’d be shocked if Gabbert connects with Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor for some long TDs.

The Colts will probably stack the box against Derrick Henry and force Tennessee to beat them some other way. Over this four-game win streak, Henry has been the best running back in the NFL, much to the chagrin of every fantasy player who drafted him in the third or fourth round only to watch him do absolutely nothing for the first twelve weeks of the year.

I see Vrabel coming into this game with lots of tricks up his sleeve. When facing the Texans for the first time this season, the first-time head coach pulled out all the gadget plays against his former boss. Now, with the playoffs on the line and facing a divisional opponent who beat them by 28 recently, I expect the Titans to get incredibly creative, if not desperate.

With the defense likely getting sucked towards the line of scrimmage every snap, in anticipation of a hand-off to Henry, I think there will be plenty of opportunities to connect over the top; especially off the play-action fake. With a few well-scripted drives on offense and an inspired defensive performance against Luck and his passing attack, Tennessee could steal this game and find themselves in the postseason mix.

Injury Designations:

The most significant injury the Titans are dealing with is Marcus Mariota’s neck. If his arm is still numb, hopefully, they’ll just sit him rather than have him out there playing hurt. They need to establish a passing attack too urgently to have him out there throwing ducks. Otherwise, Corey Davis is expected to play while Tajae Sharpe is a non-factor.

Questionable

  • QB – Marcus Mariota (neck)
  • WR – Corey Davis (hamstring)
  • WR – Tajae Sharpe (ankle)
  • OLB – Brian Orakpo (elbow)

Fantasy Football Sit/ Start

In the past, I’ve stuck to sportsbook betting exclusively in my picks articles. But, with so much of the gambling public wagering through daily and even season-long fantasy, I’ve decided to share my sits and starts for the game as well.

While I see the path for a Tennessee Titans victory, I’m just not sure they’ll be able to execute the necessary plan to get the “W” on Sunday. They would just have to change so much of what they’ve done to get themselves this far to exploit the Colts biggest weaknesses. I think Vrabel will still want to keep the ball on the ground and hope that Derrick Henry will continue to tap into the magic that’s fueled this four-game winning streak.

More than anything, I can’t get Andrew Luck’s 10-0 record against Tennessee out of my mind. I think their passing attack will be too much for the Titans, who don’t have a defender who can reliably matchup against TY Hilton. If the Colts keep Luck clean in the pocket, he’ll pick this defense apart.

Looking at these two teams, I was leaning towards this being a low-scoring game, but I’ve changed my mind. Historically, games involving an active underdog go over. The Titans are the dogs in this one but will be playing for a chance at the postseason. There’s no way Vrabel doesn’t have them pumped up and ready to perform above expectations, in their home stadium no less.

These sit/start options reflect this prediction:

Start

  • Andrew Luck – Colts QB – In Week 11, Luck threw for just under 300-yards and scored three touchdowns against the Titans, extending his lifetime record to 10-0 over his division rival. He’ll be throwing to TY Hilton who torched Adoree Jackson in their last meeting, and who could do the same to Malcolm Butler with ease. Without Logan Ryan in Tennessee’s secondary, I expect the middle of the field to be available all day, leading to a massive day for Andrew Luck.
  • Marlon Mack – Colts RB – Marlon Mack can be hit-or-miss, but I like this spot for him this week. While he doesn’t average many yards per carry, or catch many passes, Mack has found the end zone in three consecutive weeks. Plus, the Titans have allowed 100-yard days from Adrian Peterson, Lamar Miller, and Isaiah Crowell in three of their last five contests.
  • TY Hilton – Colts WR – There’s nobody participating on Sunday night that you’d want to start more than TY Hilton. While he’s been dealing with nagging injuries, Hilton has been the best receiver in the league over the last six weeks. His 856 yards since Week 10 are first in the NFL, with the second-place JuJu Smith-Schuster trailing by 139-yards. He caught 9 passes for 155-yards and two TDs when these two teams played in Week 11.
  • Derrick Henry – Titans RB – Well, you can’t bench Derrick Henry now. While I don’t like this matchup versus a tough Colts run defense, Henry has been the most dominant RB in the league as of late. He should also see the volume of carries required to make him a decent starter if he doesn’t explode for another massive rushing performance.
  • Dion Lewis – Titans RB – I think this is an excellent opportunity for Dion Lewis. In fact, in Daily Fantasy, he’s the Titans RB I’d target. Not only is he cheaper, but if the Titans are playing from behind much of the contest, it’s Lewis who will be useful in the passing game.
  • Anthony Firkser – Titans TE – Anthony Firsker has been a bit of a non-issue recently, but I suspect some of that is due to how much Tennessee has relied on the ground game. This week, they’ll have to switch things up and beat the Colts through the air to win the game. With Gabbert or a gimpy Mariota under center, passes to the tight end will be safer to make. Plus, he has a considerable advantage over Indy’s safety, George Odum.

Sit

  • Tennessee Titans QB – While I can see a way for Gabbert to shock the world and put up a great game, I can’t say I’d want to start either Titans QB. Maybe in DFS, you take a flier on Blaine as a cheap sleeper, but that’s all I’d want to risk.
  • Corey Davis – Titans WR – With the quarterback situation in flux, Davis is just not appealing as a starting WR. The Colts only allowed a 43.7 completion rate against receivers lined up out wide where Corey plays, making this a tough matchup.
  • Eric Ebron – Colts TE – Eric Ebron was a dominant force for much of the year, but has fallen off in recent week. Over the past two games, he has only four catches for 32-yards. The Titans haven’t allowed a TE to score a touchdown yet this season so I wouldn’t expect that to change now.

Potential Sleepers

  • Chester Rogers – Colts WR – I love Chester Rogers this week. Lined up in the slot on 90% of his routes, he gets to face a secondary missing Logan Ryan this Sunday. I think Luck looks Rogers way every time the deep ball to Hilton isn’t available, giving the inside WR an excellent 100-yards or more performance.
  • Taywan Taylor – Titans WR – The dynamic receiver will have his opportunities to explode versus this beat-up Indy secondary. While I don’t like Titans receivers who rely on lots of touches to perform, I can absolutely see Taylor making a play and finding the end zone this week. He’ll be lined up inside, where the Colts are more vulnerable, and only needs a bit of space to break off a huge game. In a contest likely featuring numerous gadget plays, it’s guys like Taywan who shine.

Week 17 NFL Sunday Night Football Favorite Wagers

With all of that said, Sunday night can’t get here soon enough! By kick-off, these two opponents will know if they’re playing for AFC South title or a Wild Card spot, but Nissan Stadium will have a playoff atmosphere either way.

Concluding a tremendous NFL season, I have the Indianapolis Colts taking Andrew Luck’s eleventh straight victory over the Titans. Furthermore, I’ve got them covering the three-point spread. I’m also taking the over due to the old “active underdog” theory. There’s a lot to fight for this week, so I don’t see anyone rolling over to get blown out.

NFL Week 17 Sunday Night Picks

Colts -3  at -125 betting odds

$100 to win $80

Over 43.5 total points at -112 betting odds

$100 to win $89.29

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