The National Football League has shifted starting times on six games this week to avoid situations where early games are played that determine the importance of other games originally scheduled for later starts. The league will tell you it is for competitive balance, when in actuality it is to prevent wise guy gamblers from gaining an almost unfair advantage of getting down on late games once their importance is determined by earlier results.
While nine of the dozen teams headed for the postseason are set, where they play and which three teams fill out the playoff schedules will be decided on Sunday. The final two playoff slots to be decided in the AFC are between four teams, the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.
In the NFC, five of the six postseason dates are filled, with the final one up for grabs to be gained by either the Minnesota Vikings or Philadelphia Eagles. In this conference, the Vikings have the advantage of winning a playoff date with a victory over the Chicago Bears, while the Eagles need to both beat the Washington Redskins on the road and have the Vikings lose to the Bears in Minnesota.
In the AFC, with a win, the Ravens advance and the Steelers are eliminated. For Pittsburgh to advance, they need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and have the Ravens lose at home to the Cleveland Browns.
Sometimes, the final day of an NFL regular season looks like the guy on the street moving cups around to hide which one has the ball under it. Consider this, while the Houston Texans are assured of a playoff date, they could be slotted anywhere from the top seed in the AFC with home field advantage throughout the playoffs to a Wild Card. The AFC team that can clinch the top seed on their own is the Kansas City Chiefs, who secure that position with a win over the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
The NFL has decided to put the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts into the primetime Sunday night slot … for good reason. The winner of this game will be in the playoffs, the loser can start their New Year’s celebration. Additionally, if the Texans lose to the Jaguars in an early game, a win by the Titans would result in them earning the AFC South Division championship and the Texans would then be relegated to a Wild Card role.
What we know, is that the NFL’s primetime game is between two teams with first-year head coaches, Mike Vrabel and Frank Reich, that need a win to advance. So who has the advantage?
The Colts lost five of their first six games but have lost only one game since. Their 8-1 mark over the past nine weeks is as good as any team in football, and that is why they are favored on the road in this one. They also have Andrew Luck at quarterback, and he is healthy and on a roll.
The Titans quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is questionable for this game. He was knocked out of last week’s contest against the Redskins, and early this week he wasn’t expected to be able to go on Sunday. Then, he practiced on Thursday and assured the media that he would do everything in his power to play in this game.
Truth is, if he wasn’t able to go, the Titans would have a huge motivational boost with Blaine Gabbert behind center. He came on last week to complete the victory over the Redskins, and if he was pressed into duty this Sunday, you can be sure the entire team would be inspired to compensate for the loss of Mariota with a special effort.
If Mariota is able to return, the Titans get the benefit of their more talented signal caller working the game.
Which leaves us with this, as good as the Colts have played over the past two months they have not shown the ability of overcome a bad motivational spot. The Titans, at home, in need of a win against a team that blew them out six weeks ago in Indianapolis, 38-10, are in a perfect spot to win this one and advance to the postseason.
Qoxhi Picks: Tennessee Titans (+3) over Indianapolis Colts