It’s the second matchup in three weeks between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. The first one was a big one, and the Titans found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
The second one is even bigger because a loss would mean the Titans would be swept by the Colts for the sixth time in nine seasons, making their bid to claim first place in the AFC South that much more difficult.
Let’s take a look at these two teams in-depth, and look at what the Titans may need to do to win.
HISTORY: THE COLTS DOMINATE THE SERIES
Needless to say, the Indianapolis Colts have had the Tennessee Titans’ number for several years. That has a lot to do with the Colts franchise having the likes of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and now Phillip Rivers at quarterback.
The Titans’ have only beaten the Colts three times since 2011. Since the NFL division realignment in 2002, they have won against the Colts a whopping nine times.
The Titans trail the all-time series with Indianapolis 17-35, most recently losing to them by a score of 34-17 on Thursday Night Football.
I know how Titans fans feel about the Colts, and I know they know the Colts have owned them up until this point. So, that’s all there is to say about the history of this rivalry. Not great, unless you’re the Colts, that is.
A FIGHT FOR FIRST PLACE
Regardless of their history, at this very moment, the Titans still have a legitimate chance to win the AFC South for the first time since 2008.
The only thing standing in their way are the Indianapolis Colts, who they face this Sunday. The biggest matchup in this game is the Tennessee Titans’ offense versus that stout Colts defense.
The Colts defense currently ranks second in the NFL. They are fifth in points allowed per game (20.8), which is significant because they held the Titans scoreless in the second half of their previous game.
The Colts’ defense doesn’t allow many 100-yard rushers, but Derrick Henry ran for 103 last time. Their bruising running back has been on a tear as of late, rushing for 100 yards in three of his last four games.
The Titans offense has taken a step back since their hot start to the season. Yet, they’re still efficient. They are ranked 10th in the NFL overall, and 9th in points scored. It’s almost an unstoppable force versus an immovable object type game between these two teams.
HOW THE TITANS CAN WIN
The Tennessee Titans’ offense started red-hot last time, but some unfortunate happenings swung the momentum to Indianapolis and it never came back.
You know exactly what “unfortunate happenings” I’m referring to (ahem Trevor Daniel). Luckily, the Titans placed their punter Brett Kern on the designated for return list, so he could potentially return for Sunday.
Brett Kern is nearly back. #Titans designated him for return from IR today, and they released both Trevor Daniel and Ryan Allen.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) November 24, 2020
Also, the Titans got some more good news on Wednesday with wide receiver Adam Humphries fully practicing, along with Kenny Vaccaro and Rodger Saffold returning to practice as well.
— Kayla Anderson (@KaylaAndersonTV) November 25, 2020
KEYS TO WINNING
DON’T LOSE THE GAME IN SPECIAL TEAMS
The first key to winning this Sunday is pretty obvious, play better on special teams. Let’s hope the Titans get punter Brett Kern back, that would most certainly help. But, regardless of who punts, you can’t afford 17-yard punts and punt-block touchdowns.
MORE AGGRESSIVENESS ON DEFENSE
This might be asking too much of a defense that has had trouble stopping teams all season, but I believe the difference in this game will be forcing turnovers.
The Tennessee Titans have the second-best turnover differential in the NFL (+10), trailing the Steelers (+12). They have to use that to their advantage this Sunday.
But, at the very least, I would like to see more aggressive defense this time around to force Phillip Rivers off his first read. Getting some pressure on Phillip Rivers could lead to some turnovers for the Titans’ defense.
STAY TRUE TO YOUR IDENTITY: GROUND GAME AND PLAY ACTION
The Colts could be without big defensive lineman DeForest Buckner this Sunday. He was placed on the Reserve/COVID list on Wednesday. If he does not play, that’s a huge blow to the second-ranked defense in the NFL, but that’s big news for the Titans’ run game.
Regardless, Derrick Henry was averaging 5.4 yards per carry last time these two teams met. More of Henry this time around would be ideal to try and soften up that good Colts secondary with play-action.
More on the offensive front, Adam Humphries practiced fully as well. Having him back would be huge for the Titans, as he consistently helps the Titans stay in second or third and short-yardage situations, while also converting those third downs.
Needless to say, this Sunday is a bigger game for the Tennessee Titans than it is for Indianapolis. Being swept by the Colts would not only be humiliating, but it would make it extremely hard to win the race for the AFC South in the end. The Titans can pull it off, we will see if they do this Sunday.
Featured image by Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports