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Andrew Luck
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Matchups: Colts vs. Titans

by Evan Silva

Sunday Night Football

Indianapolis @ Tennessee
Team Totals: Colts 23, Titans 20

Colts-Titans amounts to a playoff game with the winner going to the postseason and the loser going home. Regardless of whether Marcus Mariota (stinger) plays, Tennessee’s offensive intentions are clear. Their season rides on Derrick Henry, whose touch counts are 17 – 34 – 22 to Dion Lewis’ 15 – 10 – 6 over the last three weeks. Indianapolis’ run defense is no walkover, however, holding enemy backs to 156/504/5 (3.23 YPC) rushing in the Colts’ last seven games. Henry should stay fed for as long as Sunday night’s game stays close. Even as a recent non-factor, Lewis would benefit if Tennessee falls behind.

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On the NFL’s longest heater, the Colts enter Sunday night’s win-and-in game with eight victories in their last nine to face a Titans Defense Andrew Luck owned in Week 11 for season highs in yards per attempt (10.2) and QB rating (143.8) in Indy’s 38-10 beatdown win. Deshaun Watson flamed Tennessee for Week 12’s overall QB1 score the very next week, before Mike Vrabel’s fortunately-scheduled team faced four straight backup-caliber QBs in Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Eli Manning, and Josh Johnson in the last month. A top-ten QB1 in 10 of his last 12 starts, Luck has been a consistently high-floor producer and is running more with 16.3 rushing yards per game in his last four after Luck averaged 2.0 yards rushing in Weeks 1-12. Luck also catches the Titans without three top defenders in DT Jurrell Casey (knee, I.R.), slot CB Logan Ryan (leg, I.R.), and OLB Brian Orakpo (elbow, out). Motivated and safe, Luck has played at an MVP level for three months. He deserves to finish second in this year’s voting, behind Patrick Mahomes and ahead of Drew Brees. … Marlon Mack was a Week 16 dud as the Giants built a two-score first-half lead, causing negative script and Luck to hoist his second-most pass attempts (47) since Week 5. Even as Mack set year highs in routes run (26) and snaps (64%), his role lessened with the Colts in comeback mode. Mack’s Week 17 concerns include Nyheim Hines’ siphoning of five catches per game over the last month, difference-making C Ryan Kelly’s (neck) likely absence, and Mack’s failure to exceed two catches all year facing a Titans Defense allowing a league-low 25.0 receiving yards per game to running backs. Nevertheless, Mack’s roughly 15-touch projection keeps him in play as a mid-range RB2 who’s shown RB1 flashes. Mack’s matchup is improved by Casey's loss; Casey was PFF’s No. 2 run-stopping defensive tackle among 110 qualifiers. 

Luck’s Weeks 13-16 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 41; Eric Ebron 32; Hines 25; Zach Pascal 16; Chester Rogers 14; Dontrelle Inman 12; Ryan Grant 8; Mack 6. … Despite missing most late-season practices with various injuries, Hilton visits Nashville on a white-hot tear, leading the NFL in receiving yards (779) over the past six weeks with a whopping 159-yard edge over runner-up JuJu Smith-Schuster. Tennessee’s secondary had no answers for T.Y. in these clubs’ Week 11 date (9/155/2) as Adoree Jackson absorbed the brunt of Hilton’s damage. … Quiet in the Colts’ Week 15 shutout win over Dallas, then concussed in last week’s second quarter, Ebron is due back for Sunday night’s must-win game. Albeit with Jack Doyle (kidney, I.R.) still playing, Ebron was held catch-less by the Titans in Week 11, and over the course of the year Tennessee has yielded the NFL’s third-fewest yards per game to tight ends (37.6). … Ebron’s early exit combined with the Colts falling behind led to spiked opportunity for Indianapolis’ complementary wideouts, among whom routes run were distributed as follows: Rogers 38; Inman 29; Pascal 25. In addition to pass patterns, Rogers led the non-Hilton receivers in targets (7) and production (7/54/1) and now faces a Titans secondary that lost stingy slot CB Logan Ryan to a broken leg before giving up 5/78/0 receiving to Redskins slot WR Jamison Crowder last week. Rogers runs 90% of his routes in the slot.

Score Prediction: Colts 24, Titans 17

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .