NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here’s a look at six things to watch:
Derrick Henry Train
Call Titans running back Derrick Henry 'butter', because he's been on a roll. In back-to-back wins over the Chiefs and Jaguars, Henry has 188 yards and 152 yards, respectively, with four rushing touchdowns. The Titans have been riding him since last December, and he’s led the NFL with 1,616 rushing yards in the past 16 games. Can Henry and the Titans keep it going against an Indianapolis defense that’s ranked 8th vs. the run, allowing just 97 yards per game? Well, it would sure help.
Ryan Tannehill is also rolling -- he's 4-1 in his five starts with the Titans. The veteran quarterback has thrown for 1,276 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 114.9 rating since taking over for Marcus Mariota in Week 7, and he’s provided the spark the team hoped for when making the change. The Titans' only loss with Tannehill at the helm came in the team’s lone road game, at Carolina. The challenge in Indy is another tough one.
The Titans added another kicker to the roster this week in Ryan Santoso, but head coach Mike Vrabel hasn’t given too many details on how the team might use him moving forward. Veteran kicker Ryan Succop remains on the roster, and while he was a perfect 6-of-6 kicking extra points vs. the Jaguars, none of his kickoff resulted in touchbacks. Santoso said this week his big leg is his strength, so we’ll have to see how this one plays out.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton is out. The same goes for running back Marlon Mack and tight end Eric Ebron. But the Colts still have playmakers – heck, they’re favored to win. The Titans need to rise up on defense and pressure Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett. They’ll need to stand firm against a team with a top-notch offensive line in an offense that’s determined to run the ball. They’ll need to keep from getting beat on plays downfield. The defense needs to be relentless, stingy and tough.
The Titans fell behind the Colts 24-3 by halftime in last year’s game in Indianapolis, and slow starts have plagued the Titans in too many games this season. (I believe I’ve mentioned in here in the past the team has been held scoreless in the first half of four games). Well, against the Colts the Titans need to start fast, which would allow them to ride Henry and make play-action a big threat. Plus, getting an early lead would allow pass rushers like Harold Landry more opportunities as well.
Change the Subject
Tannehill has never played for the Titans against the Colts. Many of the Titans haven’t been around for the team’s shortcomings against Indianapolis in previous years, which former Colts Reggie Wayne and Pat McAfee reminded Nashvillians of during the NFL Draft. The reality is Indy’s had Tennessee’s number for years, winning 19 of 23 games in the series since 2008. This weekend’s game has nothing to do with previous games, but for the Titans, it sure would be nice to change the subject.