The Colts take a trip down to Nashville this week, looking to earn their first road win of the season. The Titans are favored by 3 1/2 points, according to SportsBetting.ag, and generally the home team gets spotted three points in any contest. So, despite having a superior record (by half a game) and more than twice as good of a point differential, Vegas still says the Colts are 1/2 points down to the Titans.
Of course, should starting left tackle Michael Roos miss the game, as it looks like he might due to an appendectomy earlier this week, those odds should improve drastically for the Colts.
Roos, the Titans normal starter, has had a very successful season thus far, mirroring or even improving on last year’s season for the 8th year veteran. ProFootballFocus graded him as the 12th best tackle in the league last season, and he started off the first seven weeks of this season in the top 10 overall. Roos has been successful in both run and pass blocking, but especially in pass blocking, a big reason why the Titans are ranked sixth in the league for Adjusted Sack Rate.
Roos has started every single game since 2005 for the Titans, a streak that is in jeopardy on Sunday.
His backup, on the other hand, has started two games in his five game career, neither as a left tackle.
Michael Otto was a tight end to start his career, only just switching to tackle last season, when he played in weeks 11 and 12. Outside of those two games, Otto has little to no experience at tackle in the NFL, and should be easy pickings for someone like Dwight Freeney.
The Colts keep their running backs back in protection about twice as often as the Titans do, but that could flip flop this week, especially with Otto playing for Tennessee.
Dwight Freeney is, or rather was, an elite pass rusher, and when he’s coming from that right side, he still has the reputation that could force Tennessee to give him extra attention. Of course, the Titans’ coaches would probably do well to give Freeney one-on-one blocking to start the game, and make him earn that extra attention.
Freeney hasn’t earned it so far this season, struggling to get consistent pressure against what has often been one-on-one matchups since coming back from injury. Of course, part of that may be that his ankle injury isn’t fully healed, which many people noticed against the Jets when he limped around on the sideline. He looked a little better last week, managing four hurries and a hit, although he failed to register a sack. Freeney’s current rate of pressure per snap is one of the worst in the league among 3-4 OLBs, in the bottom four just ahead of Aaron Maybin for the Jets.
But, this game could be just the game to get back into the flow of things. OLB Jerry Hughes will likely have his hands full with right tackle David Stewart, who’s having a pretty good year himself in pass protection. With Roos out, it’s make or break time for Freeney.
If he can’t get pressure with the inexperienced, ex-tight end matching up with him this week, the Colts should seriously consider benching him when Mathis comes back from injury. No matter what his contract is, that lack of production can’t go unnoticed.
But, I feel fairly confident that he should provide pressure this week. Poor Mike Otto just doesn’thave the experience to deal with a wily vet like Freeney, who, despite his reputation as a one-trick pony, has a variety of moves at his disposal. So far this season, his bull rush has arguably been his best move, something that has been very underrated throughout the years.
Of course, if Freeney starts out the game strong, we very well could see a shift in the Titans’ philosophy, shifting an extra guy over every once in a while. But, for that to happen, and open up things for the rest of the line, Freeney will likely have to earn it.