Indy sits at 7-4 but hasn’t looked like a playoff team since mid-October. The Titans are 5-6 but have been very competitive in their recent losses. The last meeting between these two teams featured another patented slow start by the Colts who then dug themselves out of a hole in the second half to eek out a 30-27 win.
That game saw Trent Richardson be benched in favor of Donald Brown, who had 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Colts then promptly went back to Richardson as the starter the following week, because they have to win games a certain way or something.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a must win game, but the way the Colts are playing it really is. A win gives the Colts a three game lead in the division with the tiebreaker over the Titans. From there the Colts need to just win one, or the Titans need to lose one for the AFC South banner to be in Indianapolis once again. Its time to step on the Titans throats and end their season.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
- Unleash Luck. This sounds like a recording, because I say it every week. Andrew Luck is the teams best weapon on offense. Every time he hands off the ball, the potential for a big play drops exponentially. He has be handcuffed to the pocket lately and I’d like to see him run more. He doesn’t need to be last years RGIII, but more scrambling would certainly help the offense out. The power run game has fizzled with certain players going to IR and the Colts need to run a spread offense that features short quick passes to emphasize the teams strengths.
- Get Luck Some Help. To say that the wide receiver corps has been bad since losing Reggie Wayne doesn’t do it justice. Only TY Hilton and Coby Fleener have stepped up in recent weeks. The Colts have shaken up the roster a bit and cut David “10-yard kickoff return” Reed and rookie Da’Rick Rogers will see the field Sunday. Rodgers certainly has a fair amount of potential, but his impact on Sunday will likely be minimal. The play calling for passing routes has done nothing to help players get open and needs to be a lot more creative.
- Contain Chris Johnson. CJ had two touchdowns early in the game against the Colts and then just stopped trying. More accurately, Mike Munchak opted to stop running the ball although I believe that CJ got his and didn’t care anymore. Either way, the Titans should run CJ more often, and the Colts have to find a way to contain him. Historically, Indy has locked him down and turned him into the bust style of running back who gets fewer yards than Richardson. Another performance like that from the defense will be key.
- The Shaky Secondary. Vontae Davis is dealing with a pulled groin and regardless of whether or not he plays, he won’t be 100-percent. Greg Toler is already out for Sunday, marking his fifth missed game (so glad the Colts got another injury prone CB). This unit has been terrible the past few weeks. The safeties and corners don’t seem to be communicating properly, they’re getting burned deep regularly, and are taking some of the worst tackling angles I’ve ever seen (looking at you Antoine Bethea).
- Pass Rush. The Colts were able to put decent pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick a couple weeks ago, but he still completed 22-of-28 passes as the Titans used a lot of short underneath routes to negate the rush. Indy’s linebackers and corners couldn’t stay in tight coverage and the defense was nickle-and-dimed to death. I doubt the Titans will change their game plan because it worked very well last time out. The Colts have to find a way to get quick pressure on Fitzpatrick to get him off his mark and make him uncomfortable in the pocket.
The Colts really need this win, if only to right the ship and gain some momentum. A home game against a rival always produces some good football, and with the crowd behind them Indy should be fired up. Its been a few weeks since the fans saw a home game, and the last one resulted in a 30-point blowout.
The Colts need to start playing like they’re in the playoffs. Just because the division is practically yours, doesn’t mean you can claim it already. Win Sunday and then you can start celebrating.
Colts win, 24-21.
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