When looking ahead at the Titans schedule earlier this year, the Week Thirteen matchup at Indianapolis stood out as the toughest test. Since then, the Colts have done nothing to change that viewpoint, reeling off eleven straight wins to be one of only two undefeated teams (Saints) and to claim the division crown.
The Titans are the last team to beat the Colts in regular season play, though eight out of ten Colts don’t remember it.
The current edition of the Colts is not the same team as the juggernaut which rolled over opponents earlier this season, when it won games by margins of 21,17, 22 and 36 points. The Colts’ last five games have all been fourth quarter come from behind victories with final margins of 4, 3, 1, 2 and 8 points. In that five game stretch, the Colts offense was held to 20 points or less on three occasions.
So there is some reason to hope the Titans can prolong Indy’s scoring slump.
In the first meeting this year, the Titans were without Cortland Finnegan and Vincent Fuller for the whole game and Nick Harper for half of it. After Harper’s injury, Tennessee was forced to move Ryan Mouton out to corner and have Keith Bulluck cover the Colts’ slot receiver in nickel situations. That’s hardly a winning formula but the Colts had already done their damage by that point. Fortunately, Finnegan and Fuller are now back in the lineup.
Reggie Wayne had six receptions for 60 yards and one TD in Week Five, rookie Austin Collie had his coming out party with a 8/97/2 stat line, Dallas Clark had 9/77/0 and Joseph Addai added 10/53/0. With all those balls flying around, starting WR Pierre Garcon was the odd man out, with only 1/9/0.
Expect Garcon’s role to increase this week, as Peyton Manning has been targeting him more often lately. Garcon, Indy’s deep threat, has responded with 14 catches for 221 yards and two scores in the last three weeks.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts’ best corner, Kelvin Hayden, who was sidelined for the first Titans-Colts contest, expects to play and possibly start.
The Colts injury report for this week is one that Bill Belichick would be proud of. Twenty-three players are listed, with RDE Dwight Freeney as the most notable of the questionable players.
AFC Defensive Player of the Month Robert Mathis took Freeney’s place last week, switching from his LDE position to Freeney’s RDE spot. I’ve always enjoyed watching Michael Roos work against Freeney so it would be a new and hopefully enjoyable experience to see a Roos-Mathis matchup.
Chris Johnson had only nine carries for 34 yards in Week Five and LenDale White had ten for 51. That’s something else we can expect to change this week. CJ has been given a lot more carries in the last four weeks and should get plenty more on Sunday unless the Titans have to start passing the ball in catch up mode.
Of course, the biggest change from Week Five will be Vince Young instead of Kerry Collins for the Titans. If the Titans are going to prevail this week, they’ll need another big game from Vince.
Here’s an easy prediction to make. David Thornton always seems to play his best games against his former team. Look for him to be all over the field making tackles and covering Dallas Clark.
A tougher prediction is the outcome but I’ll look at it optimistically.
Titans 20, Colts 17