Colts-Titans: five things to watch for tonight

Let’s talk Colts-Titans today. Five things we need to watch for in tonight’s matchup on NFL Network—plus my picks for the entire Week 14 NFL schedule.

1. Manning in the pocket: The Colts’ QB has looked rushed—even uncomfortable—over the last three weeks in the pocket. The result has been 11 interceptions and a three game losing streak. Indy isn’t going to change their game plan and we will see the same route concepts that are on tape (4 verticals, flat-7, china-dig, options, etc). But, the execution is the issue. Chuck Cecil’s secondary will challenge the Indy route schemes and I do expect to see some early pressure to test Manning out. Also, look for the Titans to play some Cover 6 (quarter, quarter, half) and use that deep half safety over the top of Reggie Wayne. Let’s see how Manning responds and if can protect the ball.

Chris JohnsonICONChris Johnson should have a productive night vs. the Indy front seven.

2. Chris Johnson: Why not ride Johnson in the game plan tonight? This Indy front seven hasn’t been strong against the run. Give Johnson the ball deep in the backfield in their two-back looks and let him use that vision—and speed—to pick apart this defense. Start with the edge runs (stretch, toss, crack toss) and then go back to the power game that is a big part of the Titans’ playbook. Tennessee can control the clock and the tempo of the game with Johnson, which is another way to keep Manning off of the field. I have to think 20-touches at a minimum for Johnson tonight.

3. Randy Moss: Even with Kenny Britt coming back from injury, the Titans will have some opportunities to stretch the field with Moss. The Colts are a Cover 2 football team. Use the 9 route (or fade) and the deep post off of play action and take some risk down the field. The result is a WR with elite top end speed matched up with a deep half safety. Moss has been a bust since he showed up in Tennessee, but isn't it time for the to see some return on that investment? If I am the Titans, I throw two deep balls per half to Moss and see what I can get.

4. The Colts’ running game: Between Donald Brown and rookie Javarris James, the Colts have to get some production from their running backs. Indianapolis in a one-back football team when we talk about the run game. That means we will see the inside and outside zone along with the inside trap. It brings balance to the offense and it also takes some of the pressure off of Manning. Third and short, inside of the 10-yard line, etc. We are talking about situational football as it applies to the Colts' scheme. Run the ball with production and Indy should come out of Nashville with a win.

5. Freeney-Mathis: The Titans can scheme the edge speed from the Colts. Use the screen and the sprint draw action, plus the 3-step passing game in early down and distance situations. It provides more opportunities for Chris Johnson and it also will slow down this Indy front four. We all know that both Freeney and Mathis can win one-on-one matchups and allow the Colts to drop seven into coverage. Tennessee needs to take advantage of that speed from a play calling perspective early in the game.

My Week 14 picks…

Tom Brady ICONBrady and the Patriots head to Chicago.

Last Week: 11-5
Overall: 87-40

Indianapolis over Tennessee
Buffalo over Cleveland
Atlanta over Carolina
Green Bay over Detroit
Jacksonville over Oakland
N.Y. Giants over Minnesota
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Washington over Tampa
New Orleans over St. Louis
San Francisco over Seattle
Denver over Arizona
New England over Chicago
N.Y. Jets over Miami
San Diego over Kansas City
Philadelphia over Dallas

Monday Night
Baltimore over Houston

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