|That guy's pretty good. If you like... six-five, 230-pound quarterbacks with a... laser rocket arm...|
Thursday night, the reeling Indianapolis Colts will face off against the slightly more reeling Tennessee Titans. Believe it or not, these teams are a combined 1-9 in their last 5 games, with the lone win belonging to the Colts (against a 2-10 Bengals team, in case you were wondering). The Titans will in all likeliness miss the playoffs at this point, but they'd love to play spoiler to Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Thanks to their remaining schedule, the Colts still control their playoff destiny. Three of their remaining four games are against AFC South opponents, including a December 19th home game against the current division leaders, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Every team deals with injuries, but those against the Colts have been particularly devastating. On offense, their running back depth has been completely gutted. Their top three backs, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Mike Hart have all missed significant time this year. Things have gotten so bad, the Colts have brought back Dominic Rhodes. What's next? Edgerrin James?
TE Dallas Clark and WR Anthony Gonzalez have been previously placed on injured reserve. Their replacements, Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme have filled in quite well when healthy. However, Collie has missed significant time this year due to multiple concussions, and Tamme has been battling back and knee injuries without missing any time.
All of these factors have forced Peyton Manning to shoulder most of the load, and the last five weeks have not gone well for the four time league MVP. He's thrown 13 interceptions in the last five games after throwing only 2 in the first seven games. The Colts lead the league in passing yards, but are dead last in rushing yards. This kind of offensive predictability is a recipe for disaster.
On defense, starting linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session and safety Bob Sanders have combined to play in only 14 games this year. This has contributed to the Colts allowing 142.8 rushing yards per game, which is 29th worst in the league. That's bad news for a team about to face a Titans team featuring Chris Johnson.
After starting 5-2, the Titans are winless in five games since their week 7 victory against the Eagles. QB Vince Young was lost to a season-ending thumb injury in week 11 after replacing an ineffective Kerry Collins.
Collins has only completed 31 of 67 passes in three games since week 8. That comes to an abysmal 46% completion percentage. In that time, he's thrown zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Third stringer Rusty Smith played even worse in the two games he filled in for Collins, completing 20 of 40 passes for no touchdowns and four interceptions.
Future hall of fame WR Randy Moss has been a non-factor since the Titans claimed him off waivers November 3rd. In four games since arriving in Nashville, Moss has only accumulated only 5 catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns. The Titans have only scored 39 points in those four games.
So what should we expect in this game?
Peyton Manning - If he is on target, it will be very difficult for the Titans to win a shootout. If he struggles and gift wraps more interceptions, the Titans should emerge victorious behind a strong showing by Chris Johnson.
Chris Johnson - Doesn't it seem like he's about due for a 200 yard game? If he shows up big and Peyton Manning struggles at all, the Titans can pull away with this one.
Jacob Tamme - The Titans have allowed 790 yards to tight ends this year, which is the third worst in the NFL.
Peyton Manning does well with his limited weaponry and throws for 300 yards and 0 interceptions. Chris Johnson has a big game, but the Titans come up short. Final score: Colts win 24 - 17.