We're now entering the 4th Quarter of the season, and half of the Colts remaining games happen to be against the same team, the Tennessee Titans. For the third season in a row, the Colts will play a late-season Thursday night game, on the road, in a divisional game. Each of the past two seasons the Colts have played in Jacksonville, and came out victorious on short weeks, and they'll look to do the same thing Thursday night in Nashville.
Everybody knows about the Colts three game losing streak around here, but they won't have the longest losing streak coming into the game: the Titans have lost 5 consecutive games, dating back to Halloween afternoon against the Chargers. It also includes all 4 games that Randy Moss has played in, which has led some to believe he's close to leaving his third team in 2010. They've also played three different QBs in the past 3 weeks, with Vince Young ending his relationship with Head Coach Jeff Fisher, 6th round rookie Rusty Smith looking like a 6th round rookie, and Kerry Collins playing like he was still injured last week in a 17-6 loss to Jacksonville, a team the Titans throttled earlier this sesason.
Since the AFC South began back in 2002, these are the only two teams who have won the division, which is in jeopardy here in 2010, with the Jaguars leading the division with only 4 games remaining. Also since 2002, the Colts hold an 11-5 record against the Titans, winning the last three.
After the jump you'll see how the two teams compare statistically, plus some keys to the game:
Adjusted Stats for both teams:
|Avg Start Pos||27.1||32||30.4||14||30.6||15||30.5||16|
|3 and Outs||3.11||6||4.14||11||4.24||25||4.00||13|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.604||2||0.791||19||1.206||31||0.976||4|
|Net Punts Yds/Game||39.86||11||40.23||25||40.31||10||35.86||3|
Statistical Keys to the Game:
- Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Game will be the most important factor for the Colts offense, as the Titans defense is the best in the NFL at it. This is one of those areas Peyton Manning has really struggled in lately, and needs to snap himself out of it. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly the defense to do it against.
- The Titans defense is also very good at limiting big plays, which the Colts haven't done much of lately anyway, and Red Zone defense, which will be a great test for the Colts offense. The Colts have scored on 28 straight trips to the red zone, and have scored TDs in 9 straight. Look for that to play a big role in the outcome.
- On the other side of the ball, the Titans are pretty good at Yards / Carry (they do have Chris Johnson still), but not a whole lot else. Honestly, Vince Young wasn't playing bad before he had his meltdown 3 weeks ago. Ever since then, they've completely tanked.
- Time of Possession / Drive will be key when the Titans have the ball, along with Turnovers. The Titans are averaging over 2 per game, but so are the Cowboys, and we saw how that worked out. Turnovers have killed the Colts offense over this 3 game losing streak, and the defense needs to step up and force some of their own.
Other Keys to the Game:
- Manning's psyche: He's had the worst 3 game stretch of his career, and he's under the lights in front of the whole country Thursday night. I don't think he'll play afraid of making mistakes, but he needs to avoid pressing too much. Making some safe throws early should help.
- Whether or not the Titans bite on Play-Action fakes. Without doing a thorough analysis, a good number of the eight interceptions Manning has thrown over the past 2 weeks have been the result of a player who would normally have just a slight hesitation via the play-action, but isn't now. On tape, he doesn't see those guys there because they actually bite against other teams with running games.
- Containing Chris Johnson. The Colts were pretty successful at this last year, when Johnson had a huge year. This season hasn't been quite as kind to Johnson, but I expect a heavy dose of running the ball Thursday night. He's going to get his 5 YPC, but the Colts need to not allow the "boom" play that gets the crowd into the game.
- Kenny Britt is returning from an injured hamstring after missing the last 4 games. He had been the Titans most dynamic player up until his injury, but that was with Young throwing him the ball. We'll see if he can be as effective after being hobbled, and with having Collins under center.
While the Colts have lost the last 3 games, the Titans haven't scored an offensive TD in their past 3 games, all bad losses. They are in a serious tailspin, potentially giving up on their long-time head coach. The Titans always seem to play well against the Colts, but I think on a short week, where scheming for your opponent is at a minimum and execution of your base packages are essential, the Colts should shine through. Look for the Colts to jump out early and never look back. Put the Titans down by double digits and they'll really struggle to get back in the game.
Colts 31, Titans 17