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AFC South Division Futures at Stake in Week 11: Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts

Who: Tennessee Titans (5-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, Indiana
When: Sunday, November 20, 2016. 1:00 PM (EST)
AFC South Division Odds: Texans -175, Titans +350, Colts +376 at the Bovada
Sportsbook.

A lot of pundits have been calling the AFC South a muddled mess, with no clear favorite. Others believe
that the Texans, who play Monday night in Mexico City against the Raiders, will pull out the division as
they did last year, even with a new quarterback and no three-time-defensive-player-of-the-year J. J.
Watt.

In my opinion, this state of confusion offers a great value opportunity for parties interested in investing
in the AFC South division title, and nowhere will we learn more than this Sunday when the Tennessee
Titans play at the Indianapolis Colts, a quietly important divisional matchup in the AFC South.
For reference, last season the Texans won the division with a 9-7 record, the Colts were not far behind
at 8-8, the Jags were the Jags at 5-11, and the Titans circled the drain at 3-13.

However, this season everything is different. Well, almost everything. The Jags are still the Jags, and are
already out of contention at 2-7. But over the last 5 games, the three contenders left in the AFC South – the Texans, Titans, and Colts – are all 3-2. You might think this just illustrates that muddy parity that the pundits are decrying.
However, during these 5 games, the point differentials (total points scored & total points allowed) tell a
much more interesting story.

Over the last five games, the Texans are at -33, the Colts are at 0, and the Titans are at +22. What does
that show you!

In addition, the Titans have averaged 34.4 points per game over the last 5, the Colts have averaged 29.4,
and the Texans have averaged 19.0, and are currently ranked 30th in the league in scoring. Only the
Bears and Rams score fewer points than the Texans — even their 2ñ7 division rival the Jaguars are
ranked 29th!

With this clearer view of the AFC South in mind, let’s take a look at the two division opponents facing off
on Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: Bluffing or Building?

While it may seem incredible to consider the idea that a three-win team could go on the very next
season to win the division, consider the statistics for a second. One of the most reliable advanced
metrics available is called Pythagorean Expectation, borrowed from a baseball sabermetric.

Without going into too much detail here, the main idea of Pythagorean Expectation is that a team’s
actual number of wins doesn’t reflect their season so much as does the total number of points they
scored and the total number of points they allowed. With some simple mathematics (utilizing the
Pythagorean formula), the formula spits out the number of wins a team should have gotten, if those
points for and points against had been evenly distributed throughout the 16 games of the season.

Applying this formula to the Tennessee Titans paints a much rosier picture than last year’s record
reflects. Last year’s 3-13 season should have been 5-11, a three-game improvement over their 2-14
effort in 2014/15. And with 9 wins taking the AFC South crown last year, it’s not so far-fetched to
consider that the Tennessee Titans ñ on the backs of a rejuvenated running game and a couple of strong
drafts ñ could continue to surge forward and take the division from the J.J. Watt-less transitional Texans.

Colts Fans Say a Prayer When Luck Drops Back to Pass

On the other side, the Colts are one of the more perplexing teams over the last few years from an upper
management standpoint. After going 11-5 and winning the AFC South two years in a row, they followed
it up last season by going 8-8 and missing the playoffs.

What’s worse, according to the advanced metrics I mentioned immediately above, during the last two
years the Colts have actually over-performed. Purely according to points scored and points allowed, the
Colts should have only won 6 games last season.

The biggest reason for this is that while Andrew Luck certainly has the arm strength and the football IQ
to be a top quarterback in the league, astoundingly the Colts have done absolutely nothing to shore up
their leaky offensive line. This means that even though Luck keeps the Colts in games purely based on
raw talent, week in and week out he is one of the most beleaguered quarterbacks in the league.

When Andrew Luck goes against teams without a pass rush and has time to stand in the pocket and step
into his throws, the Colts are as dangerous as anyone. But this Sunday, against a Tennessee Titans team
with 28 sacks (Denver and Seattle, by comparison, both have 29), I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I’m Taking the Titans to Win this Weekend, and to Win the AFC South

Each of the top three teams in the AFC South plays the other during these last 7 weeks of the season, so
this division is still far from decided.

But the way I see it, there’s only one team in this division that has demonstrated through 10 weeks that
they can both run the ball and stop the run, which is what you need to win games in November and
December. That team is the Tennessee Titans. With the potent one two punch of DeMarco Murray and
Derrick Henry, along with a stout front 7, I like the Titans to continue to pick up steam.

However, the only way that happens is by taking care of business in Indianapolis this Sunday. The Titans
are 0-2 against the Texans and Colts this season, so if they can’t pull this one out they probably don’t
deserve the division title. Rolling off of a huge home win against Green Bay, I see the Titans pulling out
all the stops to get above .500, and rolling over the floundering Indianapolis Colts.

My pick for this Sunday’s matchup? Titans 37, Colts 22. (Lines at Bovada: Titans +3 or Moneyline +130)

And I recommend that interested parties seriously consider taking the value at +350 for the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South, available now at the Bovada sportsbook.

David HeinenThis article was written by David Heinen

David Heinen is a freelance psychology writer by day, inveterate NFL junkie by night. Born and raised on the Green Bay Packers, David is a die-hard Cheesehead, not to mention a cheese enthusiast in his spare time.


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