The strangest of all the Week 17 games could be in Nashville, where neither the Tennessee Titans nor the Indianapolis Colts have much reason to put in a full effort. Which team should we fade for our NFL picks?
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
The Indianapolis Colts do not need a win this Sunday. Neither do the Tennessee Titans – in fact, victory might be the last thing they need. That’s Week 17 of the regular season for you. But someone’s probably going to win when these teams meet (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS), and according to the NFL odds, it’ll probably be the Colts. They’ve opened as 7.5-point road favorites (–105) with 63 percent of early bettors on their side.
For Relaxing Times, Make it Sorgi Time
Sadly, Jim Sorgi won’t be starting at quarterback for the Colts. Neither will this year’s back-up, Matt Hasselbeck – although we saw plenty of Hasselbeck in last week’s 42-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys (–3.5 at home). Once this game got out of reach in the third quarter with Dallas up 35-0, Andrew Luck was given the hook, and Hasselbeck came in for mop-up duty.
That’s not the plan for Week 17. Even though the Colts (10-5 SU, 9-5-1 ATS) are stuck with the No. 3 or 4 seed in the AFC, head coach Chuck Pagano told reporters Monday that he’d be starting his entire first unit against the Titans. That includes Luck at quarterback, and T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver. Hilton missed the game against Dallas with a bad hamstring.
The Longest Yard
You can understand Pagano’s rationale. The Colts haven’t been playing quite up to snuff lately; they had a narrow 25-24 win over the Cleveland Browns (+3 at home) in Week 14, followed by an ugly 17-10 victory over the Houston Texans (+7 away) in Week 15. Then you had last Sunday’s debacle in Dallas. Not only did Luck throw two interceptions before getting pulled, the Colts also gained just one yard rushing. One yard.
But just because the starters are going to start doesn’t mean they’re going to finish. Aside from developing some chemistry before the postseason, there’s little reason to subject these players to the slings and arrows of NFL football – especially gimpy players like Hilton, and right tackle Gosder Cherlius, who also missed Week 16 with a groin injury.
No Time to Win
And then you have the Titans (2-13 SU, 3-11-1 ATS). They made us look like geniuses last Thursday, dropping a 21-13 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars (–4 at home) to remain tied for last place in the NFL standings. The other team at 2-13 is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both clubs would surely love the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, since both are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback.
The Buccaneers have the advantage in this race to the bottom. If they lose to the New Orleans Saints (–4 away) in Week 17, that’s it – Tampa Bay gets the No. 1 pick. If Tampa Bay wins and Tennessee loses, the Titans get the pick. If both teams win, well, things get complicated. The Bucs would still get the No. 1 selection, but Tennessee could end up losing the No. 2 pick to a different three-win team (if there’s still another one by the end of the day), depending on how the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker pans out.
We suspect this is why the sharps were willing to pound the Colts in early betting. The Titans may be tempted to play for pride at home, but if they don’t secure at least the No. 2 overall pick, they could miss out on both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston as their potential quarterback of the future. The next QB on the list: maybe Brent Hundley of the UCLA Bruins, who projects as a third-round pick. Now you has mass motivation to add the Colts to your NFL picks.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Colts -7.5 at 5Dimes