The Indianapolis Colts (10-5) will travel to Tennessee on Sunday to face a familiar foe. The Titans (2-13) will be playing for pride, and quite possibly the #1 pick in the NFL Draft should they lose. They are currently tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (also 2-13) for the league’s worst record. Meanwhile, the Colts will just look to stay healthy and rebound after suffering a blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.
Sep 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (12) is sacked by Indianapolis Colts free safety Darius Butler (20) during the third quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts defeated the Titans 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Offensively, the Tennessee Titans currently have 9-year veteran Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterback. Whitehurst was 12 for 23 for 177 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception in Week 4 versus Indianapolis, starting for the Titans.
Their running game is headed by rookie running back Bishop Sankey, a 2014 2nd round pick of the team, whose 148 carries for 551 rushing yards (3.7 ypc) and 2 touchdowns lead the team.
The Titans leading receiver on the season is actually tight end Delanie Walker, who has 56 receptions for 847 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Their primary vertical threat is 3rd-year wideout Kendall Wright, as the 5’10”, 191 pound speedster has 55 receptions for 706 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on the season, stretching the field.
Defensively, the Titans leading tackler is 8-year veteran safety, Michael Griffin, who has 105 tackles on the season. Their leading pass rusher is hybrid outside linebacker, Derrick Morgan. As the team’s 2010 first round pick, Morgan has caught fire a bit this season with a team high of 6.5 sacks. It’s a defense that, much like the team, has struggled quite a bit, as they’ve allowed 27.4 ppg to opposing offenses.
Dec 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; ; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) gets a pass away during first half action against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts will look to rebound from a previous rushing game that saw them rush 10 times for just 1 total rush yard last weekend versus the Cowboys, a franchise all-time low. The offense will need to find a way to get both Dan Herron and Trent Richardson going early, especially on the road. It’ll be interesting to see how the center to right side of the offensive line plays, as it’s composed of a group of back-up offensive lineman as it currently stands with presumably Khaled Holmes, Lance Louis, and Xavier Nixon getting the nod respectively.
The offense will also look to recover from an abysmal offensive showing that saw 3 turnovers and just 7 points scored. QB Andrew Luck may not get his leading receiver, T.Y. Hilton back, who’s listed as “questionable” with a lingering hamstring issue. He’ll already be missing TE Dwayne Allen, who has been declared out with a knee injury, as well as starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus who’s also been declared out (groin).
He’ll likely be relying heavily on wideouts Hakeem Nicks, who had a season high 9 receptions for 72 yards last weekend, as well as explosive rookie wideout Donte Moncrief. Tight end Coby Fleener figures to get quite a bit of looks as well, particularly over the middle of the field.
Defensively, the Colts allowed 42 points to the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, which simply cannot happen anymore during this time of year. Collectively, they have to play better as a unit, particularly in pass coverage. While Whitehurst isn’t an elite NFL starting quarterback by any means, the defense simply has to be more effective than what fans saw last weekend. The defense will be without starting outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (shoulder), which may hurt them more against the run then it will in their pass rush. In his absence, looking for rookie outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome to assume a bigger role, particularly in pass rushing situations.
For the Colts, it’ll be their final opportunity to fine tune things before the following weekend’s Wildcard playoff game against either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. If they play like they did last weekend versus the Cowboys, the Titans could very well beat them.
However, I expect to see a much more inspired Colts’ team out there compared to what we saw previously against Dallas. The team had a players only meeting earlier this week, and if they think they can just simply bring it when they need to in the playoffs, it’ll be an early exit for them. The team has to come out with the proper energy and intensity, such as though Sunday is a big game even if the starters don’t necessarily play in its entirety.
Sep 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts flag flown after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts defeated the Titans 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports