**A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Night Showdown Against the Titans
Indianapolis Colts (4-0) vs. Tennessee Titans (0-4)
Sunday, October 11, 2009 (8:20 p.m. EDT)
LP Field (69,143 capacity) – Nashville, Tenn.
Television/Radio: NBC Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
As it stands, their records are polar opposites. But both teams know that will not matter Sunday night, when the Indianapolis Colts hit the road to take on the Tennessee Titans and resume their AFC South rivalry.
It will be the third time in four weeks the Colts have played a road game against a defending division champion on primetime television, and the second time they have faced a division opponent this season, with a 14-12 victory over Jacksonville coming in Week 1.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said despite the Titans' 0-4 record, Indianapolis knows they are going against a "very, very tough team" on the road this Sunday.
"Year-in and year-out, we've had nothing but hard-nosed battles with them," Caldwell said. "There is no reason for us to expect anything different."
If a few bounces had gone their way, Caldwell said the Titans' fortunes could be drastically different, which is one reason the Colts are not underestimating their familiar foe.
"I think Tennessee is a team that you better not look at that record and think that you're getting a team that hasn't won a game and doesn't know how to win, because they do," Caldwell said.
Quarterback Peyton Manning echoed his coach's sentiments, explaining the Colts are not treating the Titans as a winless team.
"I kind of throw records out the window when it comes to playing these division games," he said.
The Colts own a 16-12 advantage in the all-time series against the Titans, but the two teams have split their last four games. Indianapolis shut out Tennessee in their most recent meeting, but the Titans won the last time the Colts traveled to Nashville, a historically hostile environment for the blue and white.
"It's probably going to be much like it's been over the years," Caldwell said. "They know when to make the noise to give you all the problems they could possibly give you. They also understand the situation with their team, and they want their team to do well.
"I would suspect there will be a pretty vocal crowd, a pretty loud crowd and one that's going to be fairly angry."
One week after defensive end Dwight Freeney made a miraculous recovery, the Colts are getting another one of their defensive leaders back on the field.
Defensive team captain and starting middle linebacker Gary Brackett returned to the practice field this week for the first time since spraining his left knee against Miami two weeks ago.
Caldwell acknowledged Brackett's return to the field and said the team feels good about his status for Sunday's game.
"He looked good," Caldwell said Thursday. "He did well. He functioned extremely well, and obviously was able to carry out his duties and responsibilities."
In addition to Brackett, Caldwell also said 2007 Defensive Player-of-the-Year Bob Sanders has started to participate in some limited activity in practice, but was "not real sure" whether Sanders would suit up on Sunday.
"He is ramping up his activity a bit, that's the best way to describe it," the Colts coach said. "He's not in full practice or anything of that nature."
Sanders said he has not experienced any setbacks and said he feels "pretty good."
"As a player, you always want to play. You always want to be out there, but also you have to be a little realistic about your injuries and your surgeries and all of that. I'm just taking my time, and when I'm ready and it's time to get out there, I'll definitely be out there," he said.
While the team is happy to see some of their veterans back in action, Caldwell has spent some time this week with the younger players, emphasizing the importance of Sunday's game.
"We try to give them some sense of what it will be like," he said. "We give them some comparisons and those types of things. We talk about it, and then we move on. That's all you can do. We approach each and every game around here as the biggest game and the most important game because it's the next game. That's the way this one is, as well."
The message appears to be getting through.
When second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon was asked earlier this week if the winless Titans are desperate for a win, Garcon interjected, "We all are desperate."
"We are desperate, too," he said. "We need to keep winning every week."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TITANS
One year removed from a 13-3 record, the Titans' 0-4 start is one of the NFL's biggest surprises through the first quarter of the regular season. Looking only at the record may be deceiving, however.
Three of Tennessee's losses have come on the road, and two have been decided by a field goal.
"We've had difficulty in each game," Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. "I think each game takes on its own personality, and at least in the first three we could sit down and look at it and say, 'Well, we had a chance if we did one thing here or one thing there or avoid this situation.' We had opportunities in the first three. Then, last week (in a 37-17 loss at Jacksonville), we took turns with mistakes and just let that one get out of hand."
Fisher said the Titans' next step is not about "coming back," but about getting better as a football team.
"It's not dwelling on the past. It's not about playoffs. It's not about anything other than coming to work to win and do the best you can and prepare like a pro and try to win the next game," he said.
The Colts are not dwelling on the Titans' performance through four games either. Despite their early shortcoming, Caldwell said the Titans are a deep and talented team.
Their running back, Chris Johnson, is the NFL's leading rusher.
Their passing game, orchestrated by 15th-year veteran quarterback Kerry Collins, has two talented tight ends and a trio of athletic wide receivers.
And Tennessee's defense is nearly identical, with the exception of the loss of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed with the Washington Redskins in the offseason.
"I know they are the best 0-4 team I have ever seen," safety Melvin Bullitt said. "When we go down there Sunday, it is going to be a dog fight. They are going to give us everything they have. Records won't matter in that game, it will be who wants it more."
Sunday night's game also pits several Colts against three of their former teammates who are now with the Titans, linebacker David Thornton, defensive back Nick Harper and offensive lineman Jake Scott.
"They are three great men that we have an immense amount of respect for in this organization," Caldwell said. "Every one of them had a tremendous impact on us. I'm glad to see all three of them doing well."
The Colts on Friday issued the game status/injury report with RB-Joseph Addai (hand), DB-Marlin Jackson (knee) and OT-Charlie Johnson (knee) listed as questionable for Sunday's game. DB-Bob Sanders (knee) is listed as doubtful, while WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee) and DB-Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) have been ruled out for the game. Addai was listed as full participation for Friday's practice, while Sanders was listed as limited participation. Gonzalez, Hayden, Jackson and Johnson did not participate in Friday's practice.
• "It's exactly what I thought it would be, extremely challenging, certainly hones your leadership skills, and it can keep you up late at night, as well." – Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on his first four games as an NFL coach
• "Well, I thought before the season started that we would see improvement from all the teams, and obviously, I was 75% right. I think the other three teams in our division improved, and we have a lot improvement to do ourselves." – Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher on his assessment of the AFC South through four weeks
• "It is very shocking. They are just a couple of plays away from being undefeated. That record is sort of misleading in a way because they have a real good football team." -- Colts defensive back Jerraud Powers on the Titans' 0-4 record
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) THE RETURN OF THE WILDCAT?
The Colts' biggest obstacle this season came in feline form in Week 2.
The Miami Dolphins unleashed their Wildcat formation against the Colts, led by running back Ronnie Brown, and rushed for 239 yards. The Colts won the game, 27-23, but the Wildcat proved to be an effective scheme under the right circumstances.
Which is why the Colts' players said they are prepared should they see the formation again this Sunday.
"It is possible," defensive end Raheem Brock said. "I wouldn't put it past anybody. If they watched the film, I'm sure they'll try it. They have some guys who can run, but we'll be ready."
If the Titans do unleash the Wildcat, they have several options at quarterback, including backup quarterback Vince Young, the NFL's Rookie-of-the-Year in 2006, who is a quarterback with size, speed and athleticism.
Doing their due diligence, Caldwell said the Colts would prepare for both Collins and Young.
"Those are two different styles," he said. "But both are very capable guys."
2) ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER RUNNING BACK
Even if the Colts do not see the Wildcat, they are still preparing to see plenty of the run.
Titans running back Chris Johnson is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and according to at least one Colt, is the "best back in the league."
"He's extraordinarily fast and does all the right moves," defensive back Jerraud Powers said.
Caldwell said Johnson's rare combination of speed, balance and power makes him one of the premier backs in the NFL.
"All he needs is a crack and he can take it to the house. We have a real challenge ahead of us. He's special."
3) THE CALDWELL-COLLINS CONNECTION
While Sunday's game better fits the description of a heated rivalry, it also will reunite a head coach with one of his star pupils.
Back in the early 90s, Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach at Penn State and Collins was a young quarterback with the Nittany Lions.
"He was a star player coming out of Reading, Pennsylvania," Caldwell said. "He threw the ball extremely well. He had a big, strong arm, and he could move around."
Caldwell said he worked extensively with Collins, and could see the "hard-working, conscientious guy" would one day make it to the NFL.
"He was a lot of fun to coach when I had him in college. You just had a sense even then that he was going to be pretty special," he said.
The Colts coach said he looked forward to seeing Collins before the game, but is not looking so forward to seeing him once the game starts.
"He is a guy that we are concerned about, and we have to make certain that we are on our toes because he can burn you."