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Pregame thoughts on the Titans vs Colts

Following are some random and partially disjointed thoughts about the Titans vs Colts Monday night game.
I’m getting excited about the Monday night game. Looking forward to a Monday afternoon/evening tailgate too. It’s been a long time since the Titans played at home on Monday night. If I’m not mistaken, that game was against the Chiefs in December of 2004 and I didn’t even get to go. I was in St. Louis that week and had to settle for watching the game on TV.

Things are different for this Titans-Colts game. The Colts have won the division five years in a row but now they’re looking up at the Titans in the standings. They’re three games behind and the Titans are looking to make it a four-game deficit. They’re four-point favorites to do so, too. Is that all? Must be the Peyton factor, it’s hard for a lot of people to bet against him.
These teams know each other so well. They ought to, they’re divisional rivals and have played each other twice a year for the last six years. As fans, we know the Colts (as well as the Jags and Texans) almost as well as we know the Titans.
Things are different this time not only in the standings, but also personnel wise.
This isn’t the same Indy team we’re accustomed to seeing. Injuries have played a large part in their substandard 3-3 record. Manning has been rusty and inconsistent. The o-line has been banged up and shuffled around. Manning hasn’t received his usual protection and the Colts are last in the league in rushing. Their best defensive player, Bob Sanders, has been out the last five weeks and is questionable for Monday night.
Expect the Titans to pound the rock against the Colts’ 30th-ranked rush defense. Then expect them to run it some more.
The Colts have a small but quick defense. The Titans usually use LenDale White more often against that type of defense and a more versatile back (Chris Brown, Chris Johnson) against the larger, more physical defenses. LenDale and the o-line should wear the Indy D down as the game progresses.
I’d be surprised to see Kerry Collins put the ball in the air 18 times, unless Tennessee falls behind and has to play catchup. Getting a lead and playing with a lead is one of my keys to the game.
There are several matchups I’ll be keeping an eye on, particularly both lines against the Colts lines. Yeah, all of you regular readers know that linemen, both offensive and defensive, are my favorite guys.
I’ll also be watching some individual matchups — Big Al vs Saturday & Richard, Michael Roos vs Freeney, Dave Stewart vs Mathis/Brock and former Colt Jake Scott vs Dawson. Nick Harper vs Harrison and Cortland Finnegan vs Wayne will be good ones too. When the Colts go to a three-WR set, Gonzalez will replace Wayne on the left with Wayne moving into the slot, where he’ll be covered by Vincent Fuller.
The Colts had the Titans’ number (who didn’t?) in the 2004 injury-plagued season and in the 2005 season of the great salary cap purge. Since then, it’s been a close series with each team winning twice. Not only has the series been close in the last two years, but all the games have been close as well. The scores in those games were 14-13, 20-17, 22-20 and 16-10. Average score: Tennessee 17, Indy 16.
Tony Dungy said the Colts are preparing to play without Sanders, Addai and Hayden. I’m not sure that the loss of Hayden will make much of a difference, but Rhodes isn’t as good as he once was and is a dropoff from Addai. Sanders is the biggest loss for Indy. Their defense just isn’t the same without him. Even if he plays, he can’t be anywhere near his usual self. If I was starting a team, I’d want Sanders to be my strong safety. He’s a real football player.
Neither team has won a game this season against a team with a winning record. Let’s hope that streak continues for one more week.
It’s supposed to get a tad chilly Monday night, down to about 39° before the game ends. I guess I won’t be wearing shorts this week. Good football weather, though.
Notes: Thursday’s debate of the week on MVN’s NFL Outsider was “Will Tennessee win the AFC?“, with Drexel and I being among the contributors. NFL Outsider will also do a pregame article with Drexel, Tom and myself all contributing. Monday night, Tom will be liveblogging the game for Outsider, which you can also follow here on Total Titans.