You would be hard-pressed to find a first-place team over the past few years that has faced as much scrutiny as the Colts have over the past few weeks. The AFC South-leading Colts sit at 7-4 but have suffered embarrassing blowouts in two of the past three weeks and are in danger of losing their grip on the division when they face the Tennessee Titans this Sunday in Indy.
Indianapolis took down the Titans in Nashville two weeks ago, 30-27, and looked as though it had ensured a division crown. But the results of Week 12 have closed the gap to two games with five weeks remaining, and a Tennessee win on Sunday could make things very interesting down the stretch.
Meet the Colts
The Colts' recent skid can be largely attributed to their tendency to fall behind early. In the first half of the last four games, the team has been outscored by an absurd 93-12 margin. Andrew Luck managed to haul them out of two of those holes (including one against the Titans), but the other two resulted in embarrassing blowouts. The loss of Reggie Wayne has had a major effect on the offense, whose scoring average has dropped from 26.7 points per game to 19 in the four games since he went down with a season-ending ACL tear.
Of course, Wayne doesn't play defense, so the collapse on the other side of the ball is harder to explain. The unit had allowed more than 24 points only twice through its first seven games (one of which was to the Broncos), but has given up at least 24 in each of its last four contests.
Meet the Titans
Ryan Fitzpatrick has impressed since taking over for an injured Jake Locker, throwing five touchdowns and no picks in three games. His touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining against Oakland capped a thrilling comeback win and put the Titans into the second AFC Wild Card slot for the time being. The offense is still struggling, however, ranking in the bottom half of total yards and points per game. Halfback Chris Johnson has been inefficient for most of the season, but did have a 5.1 average and two touchdowns against the Colts in Week 11.
The Titans have been a bit more sound on the other side of the ball -- their 332.3 yards allowed per game ranks 11th in the league and they are in the top 10 in points allowed. They've been especially strong against the pass, but will be without one of their top secondary players against the Colts. Safety Michael Griffin has been issued a one-game ban by the NFL for repeated high hits, the latest coming against Oakland's Mychal Rivera last Sunday.
Local Takes: Colts
Indianapolis is still in solid position to win the division, but Josh Wilson at Stampede Blue is concerned by the team's sudden and severe drop-off.
Right now, it's hard to find a team playing worse than the Indianapolis Colts (not even the Houston Texans have been this bad the past few weeks), and this coming just a month after the Colts were ranked either first or second in pretty much every power ranking and were being described as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The drop-off has been stunning. The Colts went from one of the best teams in the league to one of the worst in less than a month.
Local Takes: Titans
There's a large number of Tennessee fans calling for Mike Munchak's head, but Josh Gunnels at Music City Miracles believes the third-year head coach's willingness to make changes is a promising quality that should earn him more time in Nashville.
Munchak isn't afraid to make changes when needed, without being skittish and over reactionary. He's new to the job of being a head coach and he's adapting quickly. His first year was a shotgun marriage, assembling a coaching staff late, and in the year of the lockout. The next year was obviously a disappointment as he overestimated both the staff as well as the roster from the year before. So what did he do? He went out and hired new coaches that he felt would best serve the team and the identity he wanted to build. He also overhauled the roster and acquired the players he thought would best serve the team.
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In the end, it's Pagano's dinosaur mentality towards offense that will probably get him fired. Maybe not this year, but soon after.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) November 26, 2013
RT @jmorrisMCM: The Griffin suspension is crap. Merton Hanks should be ashamed of himself for being in Goodell's pocket. Flag football time— TitansMCM (@TitansMCM) November 25, 2013
@mchappell51 - Colts beat writer
@jwyattsports - Titans beat writer
The Colts are favored by 4 points, according to OddsShark.com, though the line has shifted towards Tennessee since opening at 7.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. ET: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, Dec. 8, 4:05 p.m. ET: Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos