(SportsNetwork.com) – The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts will try to
avoid falling further off the pace in the wide-open AFC South this Sunday as
the 1-2 clubs clash at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The two team come in trending in the opposite direction, however.
The Colts avoided a winless start through three weeks by routing the
Jacksonville Jaguars on the road 44-17 to open the divisional portion of their
2014 schedule, while the Titans take on an AFC South opponent for the first
time off back-to-back losses following a Week 1 victory.
Indianapolis is being sparked by quarterback Andrew Luck, who threw for 370
yards and four touchdowns in the laugher over Jacksonville, completing 31 of
his 39 pass attempts.
Luck completed three touchdown passes in the first half and Adam Vinatieri
added a pair of field goals to open a 30-0 advantage. Running back Ahmad
Bradshaw hauled in one of those scores and ran for 65 of Indy’s 144 yards in
“The play of the quarterback was outstanding,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano
said. “Offensive line did a great job, runners ran extremely well.”
The Colts dominated every phase of the game in the opening 30 minutes,
outgaining Jacksonville 330 yards to 55. The Jaguars only picked up two first
downs before halftime.
Hakeem Nicks, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen all hauled in touchdown passes
from Luck, while T.Y. Hilton paced all receivers with five grabs for 80 yards
The win also extended the Colts’ winning streak over divisional opponents to
eight in a row, the longest active winning streak in divisional play in the
For the Titans, they have been left searching for answers since a 26-10 road
win over Kansas City to begin the season. They were bested at home by Dallas
in Week 2 before getting dominated in Cincinnati by a score of 33-7 last
Cincinnati led 19-0 at the half and scored all 33 of its points before
Tennessee finally found the end zone on Shonn Greene’s one-yard score with
6:09 to play.
Bishop Sankey led the Titans with 61 rushing yards and quarterback Jake Locker
was intercepted twice and limited to 185 yards on 17-of-34 passing.
“We just have to get better. I agree we haven’t played well enough to win
football games offensively,” Locker said. “We have the opportunities to make
plays, but we don’t make them. It starts with me missing throws. I have to
make some of those throws to continue drives and give ourselves opportunities
to score points.”
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt then revealed on Monday that Locker hurt his right
wrist during the game, leaving his status for this game up in the air
following an MRI.
If Locker cannot go, veteran Charlie Whitehurst will draw the start under
The possible loss of Locker only puts the Titans further in the hole, at least
mentally. The come into this meeting have lost five straight and 10 of their
last 11 meetings with the Colts.
Indianapolis leads the all-time series 25-14 and has not lost to Tennessee
since Oct. 30, 2011.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
As with most NFL games, the play of the quarterback is key for both clubs and
that seems to favor the Colts given Luck’s play of late.
Behind Luck, Indianapolis ranks third in the NFL with 31.7 points and 426.0
yards per game, with the 44 points scored versus Jacksonville the most for the
club since Dec. 9, 2007.
Luck posted a career-high 140.4 passer rating and his nine passing touchdowns
both lead the NFL and are tied for the most through the first three games of
the season in Colts history.
For his part, Whisenhunt didn’t zero in on just one thing that Luck excels at.
“There are probably a lot of things he’s really good at. That’s probably why
he’s such a good quarterback,” said Whisenhunt. “I have a lot of respect for
him, the way he plays, the plays that he makes. He’s a good football player.”
The Titans are hoping Locker becomes a good football player, but injuries have
held him back over his young career. He was limited to just seven games last
season because of hip and foot problems and he was forced out of five weeks in
2012 because of a dislocated hip.
The Locker-led Tennessee offense last weekend was just 2-for-12 on third downs
and the club was penalized 11 times, one that resulted in a safety.
Whisenhunt will need Locker to clean some things up, unless of course
Whitehurst is forced to make his first start since 2011 with Seattle.
“He works hard at it,” the Titans coach said of his backup. “He certainly
studies. He’s been in this system. One of the things that you liked about him
was you know he’s going to be prepared from that standpoint.”
Whoever goes under center will hope that tight end Delanie Walker is able to
go despite a shoulder injury. Tennessee may have tipped its hand as to how bad
the injury is after signing tight end Chase Coffman on Tuesday and the loss of
Walker would hurt the already struggling offense.
Walker led the Titans in receiving yards for a second straight game last
weekend, hauling in four passes for 54 yards.
Tennessee’s defense has gone its best to keep the club in games, ranking fifth
in total yards allowed at 304.3, but the club is still giving up 23 points per
The Titans also yielded three rushing touchdowns and saw Bengals quarterback
Andy Dalton catch a scoring pass last weekend.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is one guy that the Colts’ offensive line will
have to keep an eye on. He has 5 1/2 sacks in his last seven games and matched
a career best with two sacks in the last meeting.
“Really good players all around the field,” Luck said of the Titans’ defense.
“Jurrell Casey is a big monster inside. He can do a lot of things. (Jason)
McCourty is a great cover corner; (Benard) Pollard and (Michael) Griffin in
the back end so a lot of good players on that defense that fly around. I think
they’re ranked fifth in the league in total defense, so it presents a lot of
One counter for the Colts is the backfield of Bradshaw and Trent Richardson.
Both have hit the 150-yard mark on the ground through three weeks, though the
young Richardson has had trouble holding onto the ball early on.
Bradshaw, meanwhile, has yet to score on the ground, but leads all running
backs with three receiving touchdowns.
“It’s going really, really well,” Luck said of the Bradshaw-Richardson duo. “I
think they’re starting to hit their stride. O-line’s doing a heck of a job.
They both run so hard and are very dynamic, can catch the ball, can block and
do a lot of things. Really, really fun guys to play with.”
Led by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s 10 tackles, the Colts defense forced three
turnovers versus the Jaguars. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler both had
interceptions, with Toler taking his 47 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown,
and safety Darius Butler recovered a fumble that Jackson forced.
Though the teams come in with even records, the Colts have played like the
better club as of late and that isn’t lost on Whisenhunt.
“If you would have asked me what their record was I probably couldn’t even
have told you,” he said. “They look like a good football team to me, make a
lot of plays on both sides of the ball. Got one of the best quarterbacks in
the game. Playing there certainly is going to be a tremendous challenge for
For Pagano, who will need to make sure that the Colts don’t take the
struggling Titans lightly.
“They’re a quality football team, got great players on both sides of the
football. They’re preparing just like we’re preparing to win a football game
and we’ll treat it accordingly,” noted the Colts coach.
The Titans struggled keeping the Bengals out of the end zone last Sunday and
even saw a wide receiver throw a touchdown pass to a quarterback against them.
Just imagine what the red-hot Luck can do to them.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Colts 31, Titans 13