The Colts are in control of the AFC wild card, but with two games against the Texans still on the schedule, a win against the struggling Titans is a must for Indianapolis.
While the Titans, Colts and Jaguars each introduced top 10 quarterbacks into the AFC South in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, the Colts appear to have dramatically won that battle of new quarterbacks so far. Andrew Luck has set several NFL records in his rookie season, while Jake Locker has posted an unimpressive 2-5 record in his first seven games as a starter for the Titans.
However, the Titans can deliver a big blow to the postseason hopes of the Colts with a win on Sunday. Indianapolis is on the verge of being eliminated in the race for the AFC South, but are leading the race for a wild card spot. With a pair of games against the Houston Texans still on the schedule, the Colts can't afford to drop a very winnable game against the reeling Titans that have lost four of its last five.
Meet the Colts
The story of the 2012 Colts is undeniably Andrew Luck as the No. 1 selection in the 2012 NFL Draft has led the Colts to an 8-4 record through 12 games. In the Super Bowl era, no rookie quarterback selected with the first pick has led a team to a winning record and with one more win Luck can add another record to his amazing rookie season. Among the records was a 300-yard game against the Lions, his record-sixth for a rookie quarterback. The season has been a dream come true for Reggie Wayne who needs just two receptions to pass Andre Reed break into the top 10 all-time in receptions.
The Colts defense is in the bottom half of the league in most major categories, as it has been helped by the success of the offense in the first year after a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Although the team has received seven sacks from Robert Mathis, the defensive unit is in the bottom 10 of the league in total sacks with just 23. Mathis also contributed with his first career interception in Week 13 against the Lions.
Meet the Titans
With losses in four of its last five, the Titans haven't had much going right on either side of the ball. However, running back Chris Johnson has a strong history against the Colts and can cross the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a fifth consecutive season with just seven yards rushing on Sunday. In an overtime loss earlier in the season, Johnson accumulated 99 yards rushing, just under his career average of 103.3 yards against the Colts. Quarterback Jake Locker has had some struggles since taking over as starter, but posted his second career 300-yard game in Week 14.
Only one team has given up more points than the Titans through the first 13 weeks of the season and has the task of stopping Luck. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley leads the team with five sacks, but the anemic pass rush will likely need to create some issues for Luck and possibly help force some turnovers. Safety Michael Griffin has recorded two interceptions in his last three games against the Colts, including his only game against Luck.
Local Takes: Colts
Brad Wells from Stampede Blue says that the amazing rookie season of Andrew Luck is being overlooked by the national media.
Yet, even with these eye-popping numbers and the unbelievable comebacks, it's almost as if people don't care anymore. What was the hot topic of discussion the Monday after the Colts dispatched the Lions with a game-winning touchdown pass from Luck to Donnie Avery, on fourth down, with no time left on the clock? Obviously, the Jevan Belcher murder-suicide was the big story, and rightly so. After that, it was Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Rex Ryan, and the 4-8 New York Jets. Why? I don't know, but it's whateveryone was farting about on Twitter. After that, it was the continuedsh*tstorm in Philadelphia.
Local Takes: Titans
Jimmy Morris from Music City Miracles says that the last four games of the season should be focused on the 2013 season:
It is time for the Titans to start looking to next year. That means a lot of different things. For one, it means they need to be evaluating each player on the current roster to decide if they are worthy of being here next year. They should also be looking for people that they can go ahead and sign to an extension before the free agency season starts. Sen'Derrick Marks could be one of those guys.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Stampede Blue and Music City Miracles, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
VY tweeting out tips to Locker???? Bwahahaha— TitansMCM (@TitansMCM) December 2, 2012
Colts beat writer, @mchappell51
Andrew Luck interviews are so cool. About Detroit game. 'I made a lot of mistakes, a plethora of mistakes...'No. 18 never used 'plethora'— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 5, 2012
Titans beat writer, @JWyattSports
Improvement: In the last month, the #Titans defense has allowed opponents to convert just 29.5% of 3rd downs. That's 5th in NFL over stretch— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) December 6, 2012
Andrew Luck is becoming a boring story he's playing so well. Colts fans are back where they were in the Manning days, awaiting their playoff berth. The Titans, meanwhile, have one of the worst defenses in the league. Not a good sign when you're playing a guy pushing 4,000 yards. Luck won't need his sixth game-winning drive here.
The pick: 27-17, Colts
While the Colts opened as just three point favorites, the line is now five points and the Colts are favored by as six points in some sportsbooks, according to OddsShark.
The Colts will next travel to face the AFC South leading-Houston Texans in Week 15, while the Titans will host a Monday Night Football game against the Jets.