INDIANAPOLIS — Regardless if the Indianapolis Colts find themselves in the 2018 NFL postseason, they have an unofficial playoff game ahead of them on the road this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football. Whoever wins officially punches their ticket to the postseason tournament while the loser will be forced to watch the playoffs from home.
The Colts and Titans squared off earlier this season in Week 11, with the Colts walloping the Titans, 38-10. However, the Titans have found an offensive identity lately behind the dominant running of Derrick Henry.
Tennessee may, however, be without quarterback Marcus Mariota as he suffered a stinger on his right side last week. If he cannot go, Blaine Gabbert will play in Mariota's place. Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is also expected to be out with a sprained left MCL in his knee.
The Titans were victorious over the Washington Redskins at home last Saturday evening, 25-16.
Mariota and Gabbert both saw a half of action, with Gabbert coming in for Mariota near the end of the first half. Together, they went 17-of-24 passing (70.8 percent) for 192 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and were sacked three times.
Henry totaled 84 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries; he's compiled 492 rushing yards and seven touchdowns over the last three games.
As an offense, the Titans put together 291 yards, were 5-of-11 on third down (45.5 percent) and 2-of-4 in the red zone (50.0 percent). They scored 19 of the team's 25 points, as cornerback Malcolm Butler returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown at the end of the game.
Defensively, the Titans held Washington's offense — led by Josh Johnson — in check. The Redskins had 292 yards of offense, were 8-of-14 on third downs (57.1 percent) and 1-of-2 in the red zone (50 percent).
Johnson — Washington's fourth quarterback this season — went 13-of-23 passing (56.5 percent) for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also carried the ball four times for 22 yards.
Running back Adrian Peterson had a standout performance, carrying the ball 26 times for 119 yards (4.6 avg).
Tennessee got a couple nice defensive performances from linebacker Wesley Woodyard (10 tackles [one for loss] and one sack) and safety Kevin Byard (nine tackles, one interception and two pass breakups).
Back in Week 11, the Colts won at Lucas Oil Stadium, 38-10. While Mariota started the game, he was injured at the end of the first half and replaced by Gabbert. The same thing happened last week, so it's not yet known which quarterback the Colts will face this week.
In Week 11, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was 23-of-29 passing (79.3 percent) for 297 yards (10.2 YPA), three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 143.8. He was not sacked.
Running back Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines combined for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Kicking off one of the hottest streaks of his career, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had nine receptions for 155 and two touchdowns.
Mariota and Gabbert went 21-of-29 for 176 (7.0 avg), one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 74.4. They were sacked five times.
Henry and Dion Lewis carried the ball 19 times for 70 yards. The tight ends did the bulk of Tennessee's offensive damage, as Anthony Firkser, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt and Luke Stocker caught 12 passes for 123 yards.
The Colts will need to focus first and foremost on Henry this week after he put up nearly 500 yards of offense and an almost comical seven scores over the last few weeks. The Colts defense should be ready, though, as it ranks 11th defensively. Since Week 7, Indy is allowing just 16.3 points and 316.9 yards per game. It is also averaging 2.1 sacks and 1.4 takeaways in that time.
Offensively, the Colts are waiting to see about the availability of starting tight end Eric Ebron (knee, concussion) and center Ryan Kelly (neck). Ironically, Ebron was held without a catch in their first meeting, and Kelly left the game with an MCL sprain in his knee. They were both injured last Sunday in a win over the New York Giants.
The easy thought is to point to Luck's success in Week 11 against Tennessee and say that's what will carry them again this Sunday night. However, it could just as well be Mack and the run game, as the Titans have allowed opponents to reach 140 rushing yards in five games this season.
2018 KEY STATS
- Tied-3rd in turnovers (15)
- 5th in rushing offense (128.7 YPG)
- 10th in third-down offense (41%) and tied-7th in fourth-down offense (64%)
- 26th in total offense (316.0 YPG)
- Tied-26th in scoring (19.5 PPG)
- 26th in sacks allowed (47)
- 29th in passing offense (187.3 YPG)
- 2nd in scoring defense (18.0 PPG)
- 2nd in red zone scoring (42.5%)
- 6th in passing defense (212.9 YPG), 5th in opponent YPA (6.9), 8th in opponent completion percentage (62.9%) and opponent passer rating (86.9)
- 7th in total defense (326.5 YPG)
- 7th in third-down defense (36%)
- Tied-26th in takeaways (15)