It will be a bitter end to a dreadful season tomorrow, regardless of the outcome. The Tennessee Titans will have missed the playoffs yet again, and as has been the case these past few years, will enter the off-season with more questions than answers. Let us hope that the ownership and the front office get it right this Summer, lest the struggles of this "lost" year be repeated.
Now, onto the Titans season finale against the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts;
The Titans (2-13) take on the Colts (10-5) at LP to close out the year. They will likely do so without Zach Mettenberger, who is still listed as questionable. It is uncertain why they didn't place the QB on IR since it seemed fairly obvious that the shoulder knock would mean the end of his season. Regardless, Charlie Whitehurst will again suit up as the No.1 man this Sunday, and will battle a Colts defense who are looking to prove something after suffering a humiliating loss last week to Dallas. The Colts have had the AFC South tied up for a few weeks now, but they will do what they can to avoid backing into the playoffs on a losing slide.
Whitehurst will have Kendall Wright back to boost the offense, and Delanie Walker, despite his pro-bowl snub, has had statistically the best year ever by a Tennessee Titans tight end, as both a pass-catcher and a blocker. Walker has caused problems for the Colts thus far into his Tennessee career, and I expect that to continue; especially against a slower linebacking group headed by Erik Walden.
With Taylor Lewan still questionable as well, the Titans have a crisis at OT. With Michael Oher being placed on IR, Byron Stingily also listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and Terren Jones likely to miss out with a concussion, there is little in the way of bodies to put out there to protect Whitehurst and create running lanes. Jamon Meredith is the only name that sticks out that has seen any real snaps this year...It figures to be a long day against the Colts front seven. Indy's group has lacked dynamism and consistency this year, but like the Titans they can rush the passer if they get hot. DT Arthur Jones and DE Cory Redding prove muscle up front for the Colts, and Walden and Werner can rush off the edge.
The Titans have really struggled to run the ball effectively, with their only respite being Chance Warmack of late. The second year guard has put on an impressive stretch, which can be hard to notice with the poor play going on around him. Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, and Leon Washington will need to find a way to grind out the tough yards and keep the chains moving. After a scoring drive on the first series last week, the team went to sleep for almost an entire half. They need to be more consistent in this one, if nothing else than to achieve a moral victory.
On defense, the Titans will likely be facing former teammate Matt Hasselbeck as he stands in relief of Andrew Luck, if only in the second half when Luck is inevitably benched. It will be interesting to see how many starters the Colts rest, especially due to their decreased momentum of late. A banged-up Reggie Wayne has been ineffective lately, but will be more than enough to handle for the Titans out wide. Ha'keem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton will also present difficult challenges for the Titans secondary. With Wreh-Wilson on IR, McCourty and Sensabaugh will again be the primary corners, and rookie MarQueston Huff will be asked to provide help underneath.
While they have lacked an effective running game since Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the year, the Colts have been a very good pass blocking team, and have given Luck tons of time to sit back and find his targets. That will be big for them should Hasselbeck get the nod as expected. He is not a mobile signal-caller at this point, and figures to struggle should Casey and company get significant interior pressure. Ropati Pitoitua and Jurrell Casey will play a big role, with Sammie Hill likely to miss with a foot injury. If they can beat the combination of Jonotthan Harrison, Jack Mewhort, and Gosder Cherilus, they can influence the Colts offensive rhythm.
For many Tennessee Titans, this will be their last game. With a big roster re-build right around the corner, there will be a lot of players trying to put on some good tape for other teams. While a Titans win would be annoying in some ways (draft position, coaches trying to prove growth) the team could certainly use a positive before going into the offseason, especially at home.
They will be facing a Colts team that has won the division three times in a row, and is gearing up for what they hope will be a deep postseason run. Most importantly, it means they will likely be playing plenty of backups and resting key players. What happens tomorrow may be irrelevant, but it will be the last Titan football we see in some time. Hopefully when we do see the two-toned blue march out onto LP Field again, they will be a different squad with a winning attitude. Until then, questions will abound.