One of the more interesting divisional races in the NFL this season is the one between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. They are both 7-3 so far this year, but the Colts have the edge, as they won the only head-to-head matchup between the teams so far. However, the Colts just received news regarding COVID-19 that could significantly help the Titans’ playoff chances. The news was that Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Indianapolis Colts have the edge over the Tennessee Titans
The Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans are two of the best teams in the AFC this season, as they are both 7-3 so far.
The Colts have been very good behind the play of their stellar defense, as it is only allowing 20.8 points per game. Their offense has played well, too, though, as Philip Rivers appears to be figuring things out with his new team. Rivers has thrown for 2,683 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also has some nice weapons around him, as rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has racked up 518 rushing yards so far, and running back Nyheim Hines leads the team in receptions with 36, and is second on the team in yards from scrimmage with 475.
Indianapolis has looked excellent lately, too, which led to them defeating the Titans 34-17 in their first meeting against Tennessee on Nov. 12.
Despite the Titans’ loss to the Colts a couple of weeks ago, they have also been a good football team this season. Their defense has not played very well, but their offense has plenty of weapons. Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs in the NFL, as he has 1,079 rushing yards so far, and they have two talented wide receivers in Corey Davis and A.J. Brown.
The Titans have the same record as the Colts, but the Colts’ win over Tennessee gives them the edge in the AFC South standings. However, the two teams play each other again on Sunday.
DeForest Buckner has been excellent for the Colts
The Indianapolis Colts made one of the most significant moves of the offseason in March when they traded the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
With the 49ers, Buckner had three seasons with six sacks or more and more than 60 total tackles. In 2018, Buckner also earned a Pro Bowl selection with the 49ers as he had 12 sacks and 67 total tackles.
Buckner has since been great for the Colts this year and is why their defense has been so successful. He has 40 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, and one forced fumble so far this season. Buckner has certainly made a case to earn another Pro Bowl selection in 2020, too, for what he has meant to the Colts’ defense.
However, he won’t be able to play against the Titans on Sunday in the important AFC South battle.
DeForest Buckner’s positive test increases the Titans’ playoff chances
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Buckner will not play in the important battle for first place in the AFC South on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.
This could significantly help the Titans on Sunday, and could even increase their chances of making the playoffs. With a win against the Colts, Tennessee would re-claim first place in the AFC South division, as they would be 8-3 compared to what would be a 7-4 record for the Colts. They have a greater chance to win the game now, too, as Derrick Henry should have more holes to run through with Buckner not there to plug them up. In the two teams’ first meeting, Henry ran for 103 yards but could now run for even more on Sunday.
The Colts certainly have other great players on that defense, like linebacker Darius Leonard, and still, have a great chance to win. However, Buckner not playing just increases the Titans’ chances of winning compared to what their chances maybe were before he tested positive.
It will be interesting to see how the Colts, and the Titans, both respond on Sunday.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference