The Indianapolis Colts (1-2) take on the Tennessee Titans (1-2) this weekend in the first of two meetings between the AFC South rivals this year - this one taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Here's your preview of the game.
What Happened Last Week?
The Titans lost big. The Colts won big. The Titans faced the Bengals on the road - an opponent who might very well be the best in the AFC right now. The Bengals jumped out to a 33-0 lead before the Titans scored with six minutes left in the game to make the final score 33-7. The Titans turned the ball over twice, committed 11 penalties, and were just 2-for-12 on third downs. The Titans actually out gained the Bengals, controlled the ball longer than the Bengals, and only lost by one in the turnover category, while also gaining 149 yards and a score on the ground, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. But failure to convert on third downs, an 0-for-2 day from kicker Ryan Succop, and two interceptions from Jake Locker all helped a good Bengals team take advantage and jump out to a big lead. After winning 26-10 in week one against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Titans have been outscored 59-17 and are 0-2, bringing their record to 1-2 on the season.
The Colts, unlike the Titans, played a terrible team in the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, like you'd expect the Colts to do against Jacksonville, they dominated. Andrew Luck led the Colts to a 30-0 halftime lead and a 44-17 overall victory. Luck looked as good as he ever has in the NFL, completing 31-of-39 passes for 370 yards, 4 touchdowns, no picks, and a 140.4 passer rating - good enough to be named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week. The Colts racked up 529 yards of total offense, didn't turn the ball over, and forced three turnovers, as well as notching four sacks. The Colts are the opposite of the Titans - they started 0-2 but are on a one game winning streak to improve to 1-2 on the year.
Key of the Game for the Colts
Keep it up! Last week, the Colts played a very good all-around football game, and while it was against perhaps the league's worst team, the Colts still executed well and looked good. Each player did his job and the Colts were fundamentally sound, for the most part. Their game plan was great and their players played well. Now this week, the Colts just need to once again do their jobs and develop a winning game plan (that hopefully utilizes Andrew Luck well). If the Colts can play fundamental football against an average Titans team, they should win. It's when they start beating themselves that the Colts can get into trouble - as long as they don't do that, the Colts should win.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Offense vs. Titans Defense
The Colts' offensive line against the Titans is the matchup to watch this week. The Titans have been one of the best pass defenses in the NFL so far this season, but have been weak against the run. Against Tennessee, the Colts' offensive line needs to play well. The Titans have recorded eight sacks this season and provide a tough test for quarterback Andrew Luck. There's no doubt in my mind that Luck can succeed, but that's provided he has time to get someone open and make a throw. That's on the offensive line. Perhaps more so, however, the Titans have struggled against the run so far this year and so the opportunity could be there for the Colts - if the line opens up the lanes. I expect the Colts to try to develop that run game this week, while at the same time not being afraid to make plays through the air - especially trying to get that play action passing that worked well last week going again this week. For the Colts to have success on offense this week, the offensive line needs to keep up the good play they have been producing.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Defense vs. Titans Offense
The Titans will most likely be without quarterback Jake Locker on Sunday, meaning that it'll likely be Charlie Whitehurst starting. The Colts will be without starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and starting defensive lineman Arthur Jones - both of whom play big roles in run defense. The Titans have been able to run the ball well this season, even against the Bengals defense. On the year, the Titans are averaging 5 yards per carry while gaining 393 yards on the ground - an average of 131 yards per game. I don't think it's any secret what the Titans will try to do this week against the Colts, and that's run the football. The Titans have had success doing it and the Colts have had trouble stopping the run (though they look better than in the past, I guess). As such, the Colts defensive linemen but especially their linebackers need to step up. It'll be D'Qwell Jackson and Josh McNary starting at inside linebacker, and the Colts will need them to play well on Sunday to help stop the Titans running attack.
Why the Colts Will Win
The Colts have lost one time to the Titans at home since 2003, and that one game was in 2007 in a game that saw Jim Sorgi play much of the time at quarterback. As the Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck is 2-0 at home against the Titans, and he'll be the best player on the field this Sunday for either team. The Colts are a better overall team than the Titans largely because of their quarterback, and the Titans will likely be starting a guy who hasn't thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2011 (Whitehurst). At home, with Andrew Luck, and with the bitter taste of still having a losing record in their mouths, it'd be ridiculous to pick against the Colts in this one.
Why the Colts Won't Win
The Colts achilles heel has long been their inability to stop the run, and this week they're short-handed in that aspect against a team that has success in that area so far this year. The Colts offensive line will likely be missing their starting guard, too, as Hugh Thornton is doubtful, and so there's some question as to whether the line can keep up their good play. The Titans pass defense has been one of the best in the NFL so far early this season, and so if they can make enough plays against Andrew Luck and the Colts passing attack, they can win.
The thing about playing in the AFC South is that, while it's a division the Colts definitely should win, it's never easy for them. The Titans always seem to play the Colts tough, and I think that will be the case again this week. It will likely be a tough game, but the Colts will come out on top - largely because they have Andrew Luck and the Titans have, well either Jake Locker or Charlie Whitehurst. Either way, it doesn't compare to Luck, and I think that once again, like so many Colts games have and will be, the difference will be Andrew Luck.
Colts 27, Titans 20
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