Keepers Week 11
With wins against San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, Indianapolis was being heralded as a Super Bowl contender. That was before the Colts were dominated in all three phases of the game at home by St. Louis en route to a 38-8 loss. The loss showed a lot of serious issues and has some questioning whether they can challenge Denver, New England and Kansas City in the AFC.
After struggling through a difficult stretch of schedule, the Titans appeared set to make a run at the Colts and in the Wild Card race. Tennessee blew an opportunity to make up ground, losing to previously 0-8 Jacksonville on Sunday. If the Titans had won, they would have been one game behind the Colts and Thursday's game would have been for first place.
Meet the Titans
A week ago, the Titans looked like a solid pick to make the playoffs. Now, coming off a home loss to Jacksonville and after losing Jake Locker for the season, the future doesn't look very promising for Tennessee. The Titans are still just one game back in the Wild Card race and two games behind the Colts, but if they make a run, it will be with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
The Titans have two games remaining against Indianapolis, a game at Denver and they will host Arizona. The loss to Jacksonville gives Tennessee very little margin of error moving forward. With Locker out, the Titans could turn to Chris Johnson and the rushing attack. Johnson had his best game of the season two weeks ago, rushing for 150 yards on 23 carries, but picked up just 30 yards on 12 carries last week.
Tennessee remains strong against the pass, but has struggled against the run and is 21st in run defense.
Meet the Colts
Depth issues may be beginning to take a toll for the Colts, who were dominated in every phase against St. Louis. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens torched Indianapolis, averaging 15.4 yards per attempt. The Colts' defense now ranks near the bottom-third of the league both against the pass (19th) and the run (26th).
Andrew Luck threw three interceptions against the Rams, a week after he completed just 45 percent of his passes in a comeback win against the Texans. Luck has now had issues in both of his games since Reggie Wayne suffered a season-ending knee injury. How he and the Colts adjust moving forward could go a long way in determining if Indianapolis is a contender in the AFC.
Local Takes: Tennessee
Losing Locker for the season doesn't give Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles much hope going forward:
This is just another tough injury for Locker. He just can't seem to stay on the field.
Will that do it for the Mike Munchak era? This team has no shot of making the playoffs now.
Local Takes: Indianapolis
Derrick Hawkins of Stampede Blue put the Week 10 loss to St. Louis on the coaches and didn't rule out the need to make a change:
If the Colts expect to make the playoffs, it's time that the Colts management puts a boot into someone's rear end. There's too much talent and too much money having been spent to see this kind of product on the field. We didn't get our butts kicked today for lack of players or playmakers. We got our butts beat for lack of preparation and the inability to make changes.
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With the teams coming off surprising losses, it's hard to predict what will happen when they meet on Thursday. Both have flaws, but the question is which team can best take advantage of the other's issues. Tennessee is solid against the pass, but vulnerable against the run. Indianapolis struggles to get anything going on the ground and instead relies on Luck, playing right into the Titans' strengths.
Tennessee may not be a dominant rushing team, but it has shown the ability to hurt teams on the ground and could expose some areas of weakness in the Colt's defense. Tennessee is also playing at home. If the Colts play like they did earlier in the season, they should come away with a win. If their performance is similar to the last two weeks, the game shifts into the Titans favor.
The Colts have had too many issues coping without Wayne, and Trent Richardson has done next to nothing for the offense. Tennessee has to win this game to stay alive in the playoff chase, so I'll give the Titans a slight edge.
Pick: Tennessee 24-21
The Titans were favored by 2 points to open, according to OddsShark.com. Other oddsmakers have the Colts favored, with some installing Indianapolis as 3-point favorites.
Week 12: Colts at Arizona, 4:05 p.m. ET
Week 12: Titans at Oakland, 4:05 p.m. ET