The 5-6 Tennessee Titans travel to Indianapolis, Indiana to take on the 7-4 Indianapolis Colts in a game that has playoff implications for both. The Titans entered Week 13 with the hypothetical #6 seed in the AFC but lost it when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving. Still, the Titans are very much in the hunt sitting right now just one game back with the #7 seed.
The Titans have never won at Lucas Oil Field and need to get that monkey off their back. The Colts lead the series going back to the Houston Oilers/Baltimore Colts era 24-14. The Titans have lost 4 straight to the Colts and a loss Sunday would give the Colts their seventh season sweep of the Titans since the two teams were realigned into the AFC South. The Colts currently sit at a 26 game streak of not losing back to back games.
The two teams squared off on November 14, 2013 on Thursday Night Football in a game that came down to the wire. The Colts came back from a 14 point first half deficit in the first half to win the game 30-27. The Titans once again were the victim of their own mistakes with a fumbled kickoff return early in the third quarter. The Titans would run 6 offensive plays in the 3rd quarter. The Titans run defense also put up another stinker allowing Colts running back Donald Brown to rush for 80 yards on 14 carries for a 5.7 yards per carry average and 2 touchdowns. You can find my full game recap here.
The keys to this game are really very simple. First and foremost, the Titans have to take care of the football. The Titans are a very good third down football team and must continue to be so. They have to get off the field on third down against the Colts, an issue in the Week 11 game. The Titans cannot let the Colts run against them Sunday. The Colts have the league’s 19th ranked rushing attack. On their end, the Titans need to run the football more consistently against a Colts defense ranked in the bottom of the league against the run at 26th.
On offense, the Titans did a nice job of containing Colts pass rusher Robert Mathis in Week 11, who is having an outstanding season. Against the Titans, he finished with a season low 2 tackles and only 1 quarterback hit. Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker had a strong game and finished with career numbers. He was targeted 10 times and caught 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans are coming off a big win in Oakland where young wideouts Kendall Wright (second year) and rookie Justin Hunter posted their first 100+ receiving games. Look for Ryan Fitzpatrick to target Wright, Walker and Hunter going down the stretch. Wright and Walker are obviously the most consistent of the Titans receivers, but Hunter has shown big play ability. The Titans will need every ounce of talent the trio possesses on display to win big games against the Colts and the Broncos who will be the Titans next road opponent.
On defense, the Titans need big performances from everyone but in particular the defensive line and the linebackers. It all starts up front and the front has really struggled the past few games. The Titans, particularly the linebackers, let Colts tight end Coby Fleener get past them and burn them for 8 receptions for 107 yards. The Titans excellent secondary held T.Y. Hilton in check in the last game and that needs to continue.
The Titans will be without free safety Michael Griffin who is serving a one game suspension for a hit he put on Mychal Rivera in the Raiders game. Safety George Wilson will play safety alongside Bernard Pollard who has rotated with Michael Griffin at free safety this year. Griffin is having a great year but I have full confidence in the Wilson/Pollard tandem. Will we see our first 4 linebacker package of the year? I feel certain it’s coming down the pike with the linebackers finally getting healthy.
Finally, on Tuesday the Titans signed former probowl returner and all around good guy in Leon Washington who was released by the Patriots on November 23, 2013. He will start at the return position Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Let’s hope he can provide the Titans the stability they desperately need at the position.
The game kicks off at noon at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. You can watch the game locally on CBS and Bill Cacatee and Steve Tasker will be in the booth . Walt Coleman and his officiating crew will serve as the game officials.
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