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Colts facing new challenge with new-look Titans in Week 13

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts are heading into their Week 13 matchup with the Tennessee Titans looking a little rough at the moment. The team is coming off of a huge loss to the Houston Texans which would have given them solid control of the AFC South, and in the driver seat when it comes to any tie-breakers within the division.

Instead, the Colts are now going to fighting from behind the rest of the way out. Normally, the week’s matchup with the Titans would have Colts’ fans feeling confident about another win to move to 7-5, especially in a week when the Texans have to face the New England Patriots.

However, this isn’t the same Titans squad that the Colts faced in Week 2 of the season. Even then, the Colts should feel lucky that they pulled that one off to begin with. Brissett pass for just 146 yards and was sacked 3 times for -25 yards. The Colts also ran for 167 yards, and somehow outgained the Titans in total yards in their 19-17 victory.

The majority of that was due to Marcus Mariotta being just as average as Brissett was (154 passing yards), and the Colts got to him 5 times for a loss of 35 yards. Additionally, the Colts lost the turnover battle, but somehow pulled out the win.

The Colts aren’t going to be facing those Titans this week, though. Mariotta was benched after the Titan’s Week 6 0-16 loss to the Denver Broncos, and in came Ryan Tannehill to give the team a new look for the remainder of the season.

Since then, the Titans have turned the second half of their season around after starting the year 2-4, and have been 4-1 under Tannehill. Say what you will about Tannehill, but he’s beaten the Chiefs, Bucs, and the Chargers since taking over at quarterback. Tannehill has a 72.1 percent completion rate, has thrown for over 1,400 yards, and is hitting a 9.2 yards per attempt clip and has the Titans’ offense looking far more competent than they ever did with Mariotta under center.

Outside of the Chiefs game through the air (433 passing yards), and the Carolina Panthers game on the ground (156 rushing yards), the Titans’ defense has stayed pretty consistent in their efforts as well. With the Colts averaging a pathetic 163.4 passing yards since Week 8, this game could get even uglier for the team’s offensive output — and lord help us all if the running game isn’t on point.

In spite of Tannehill playing well since being thrust into the lineup, one silver lining for the Colts is that their defense has been playing their best football of the season as of late. Granted, it hasn’t exactly been against a murder’s row of offenses, but they’ve been doing their job and that’s more than what the Colts’ offense can say.

Another may be Tannehill’s lack of success against the Colts in his career as well, but it’s more limited to his ability to win games as opposed to quality quarterback play.

Tannehill is only 1-3 against the Colts — all with Miami — but he’s 88-of-135 (65.2%), has thrown 4 touchdowns to only 1 interception at a clip of 8.5 yards per attempt. He’s been sacked 14 times though, and that may be what the Colts really need to focus on when heading into this matchup — finding a way to get to Tannehill.

Any way you look at it, the Colts aren’t going up against the same ole Titans this week. Though the team has dominated the Titans historically (27-9), and are 14-2 in this matchup since 2011, all of that goes out the window when you can’t pass the ball downfield. This isn’t Andrew Luck, and it certainly isn’t Peyton Manning. It’s Jacoby Brissett, and unfortunately he’s been apprehensive at best at taking shots downfield, and has second-guessed a lot of open shots to the middle of the field as well.

The Colts should win Sunday, but I don’t think anyone will be surprised if they struggle to take control of the game, or even come up short against another AFC South opponent.