The Indianapolis Colts play the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in a matchup of AFC South rivals. Here are five things to be watching.
The Offensive Line!
The Colts offensive line has been playing very well recently. In an effort to keep up that good line play, the Colts are continuing to start A.Q. Shipley at center this weekend against the Titans. Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck, and most others realize how important continuity is within an offensive line, and that's another reason why Shipley is getting the start. Despite those efforts to maintain continuity by the Colts, however, it may not happen anyway, as starting right guard Hugh Thornton is listed as doubtful for the game. So the continuity on the line might not be there anyway. Against a Titans defense that has been better than most people think this year, the Colts line faces a big test. The Titans have recorded 8 sacks this year and have done a good job defending the pass. The Colts offensive line will need to give Andrew Luck enough time to throw. The line needs to continue it's good start to the year.
Utilize the Tight End!
I think we can all agree that the Colts offense is at their best when they're using their tight ends effectively. Last week against the Jaguars we saw the Colts be intentional about getting both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener involved (and Jack Doyle!), with Andrew Luck targeting his tight ends on 16 of his passes. The three tight ends combined for 11 catches, 102 yards, and 2 touchdowns, and they could have had a lot more too. The Jaguars did about as bad of a job of covering the tight ends as possible, and while the Colts won't get it as easy this week, they still need to be intentional about getting the tight ends involved.
Cover the Tight End!
One of the most glaring weaknesses the Colts defense has shown this year has been their inability to cover the tight ends. The Colts have allowed 12 catches for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns to tight ends through three weeks - and that's without allowing a single catch to a Jaguars tight end a week ago. The Titans' leading receiver this year is their tight end, Delanie Walker, who has 17 catches for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns so far this year. Expect the Titans to factor him into their game plan heavily until the Colts can show that they can defend a tight end - which they definitely haven't so far this season.
Who Starts at QB for the Titans?
Will it be Jake Locker of will it be Charlie Whitehurst? It's looking likely that it'll be Whitehurst, as Locker is listed as questionable, but we'll have to see on Sunday. Either way, neither quarterback is great, but Locker brings more to the table than Whitehurst and the bottom line is that the Titans might very well be without their starting quarterback on Sunday against the Colts.
Colts Run Defense!
Going off of the previous point, regardless of which quarterback plays for the Titans, I expect the Titans to try to establish the run. They have run the ball well this year, gaining 393 yards through three games, averaging 131 yards per game and 5 yards per carry this year. The Colts have struggled to defend the run (though not as much as last year! Progress!), so it makes sense for the Titans to try to run. Plus, the Colts will be without starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and starting defensive lineman Arthur Jones, both of whom play a big role in run defense. All of this to say that the Titans run game versus the Colts run defense will definitely be something to watch on Sunday.
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