While last Sunday was disappointing, it is time to turn the page and move on to the next opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. They have struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but everyone knows that they have had Tennessee's number for the past several years. As far as this Sunday, both teams have serious advantages in different places.
Reasons For Confidence: Colts' Injuries, Colts' Offensive Line, Run Game
Colts Injuries: Indianapolis is a little banged up right now. On Monday night, they lost another one of their cornerbacks, Vontae Davis, who is probably the best player on the defense. With the team facing a short week and the difficulty of quickly clearing the concussion protocol, there is a very legitimate shot that he will miss Sunday's game. The team is already missing Greg Toler and Darius Butler, so they will be at the bottom of the depth chart as far as cornerback depth. In last week's game against Cleveland, the Browns were able to man up, press the Titans receivers and send the house, which caused the offense to struggle. With the Colts thin at cornerback, it seems unlikely that they will be able to take this approach. Indianapolis may also be missing one of its top offensive weapons in Dwayne Allen, who has an ankle.
Colts' Offensive Line: The Titans will not exactly be seeing the likes of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, and Alex Mack this week. The Colts' offensive line has struggled mightily through the first two weeks. Their main issue has been blitz pickup, facing aggressive defenses in Buffalo and New York. Expect Dick Lebeau to follow suit and test this offensive line's ability to pickup the blitz early. Also, historically, Jurrell Casey has always had very strong performances against Indianapolis. Expect that to continue, especially after he had a quiet day last week.
Run game: Through the first two games, the Colts have struggled against the run--they are tied for 22nd in the league. On the other side, the Titans have a top 10 (6th) rushing attack in the league. While in the first half Ken Whisenhunt seemed somewhat panicky with his playcalling after Cleveland's fast start, he seemed to settle down and establish the run in the second half, even while facing a big deficit, and it was one of the main factors in the team's ability to nearly make the comeback. Expect the Titans to run the ball early and often, keeping it out of Andrew Luck's hands.
Reasons For Concern: Andrew Luck, WR depth, Run Game
Andrew Luck: Does this even need to be said? Yes, he is a rival quarterback, but he is incredible. He has willed his team before with a poor supporting cast, and he can certainly do it again. He has turned the ball over a lot through the first two weeks, but let's face it, he is Andrew Luck--you cannot count him out of any game, especially against a team that he has never lost to.
Wide Receiver Depth: This could be the biggest mismatch between the two teams. It has been fully established that the Titans are thin at cornerback. Meanwhile, the Colts have a number of threats on the outside, including T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncreif, Phillip Dorsett, and Andre Johnson. Outside of Johnson, all are dangerous vertical threats. Considering the fact that two of the main plays that led to the Titans' loss on Sunday were deep balls on Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who both have always struggled with deep balls, Titans fans must be deeply concerned with this matchup. Even if Jason McCourty returns on Sunday--he said he will "definitely" practice this week-- he will certainly not be 100 percent. He missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason.
Run Game: This will show up every week until the Titans put together a good performance against the run. Tampa Bay and Cleveland have both been able to run the ball well against this defense. On the Colts side', Frank Gore and rookie Josh Robinson are two physical runners. Colts' offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has shown a willingness, sometimes to a fault, to stay patient and establish the run. If the Titans cannot stop the run, it will be a long day. Not only will the Colts continue to run the ball, but this will allow them to take shots off of playaction.
I expect a much closer game than either of last year's, but this game will be tough to call. Both teams are looking to bounce back, and both have great opportunities to exploit some of these matchups. Combine that with the fact that divisional games are very difficult to call, and you have yourself a tossup. Both defenses have very real weak spots, so whoever can take advantage more will come out with the victory.