At 4-7, the Tennessee Titans enter Week 13 with their worst record through 11 games in the Mike Vrabel era:
- 2022: 7-4
- 2021: 8-3
- 2020: 8-3
- 2019: 6-5
- 2018: 5-6
But heading into Sunday's matchup at Nissan Stadium, the Colts aren't buying into the Titans' record as an indication of the challenge ahead of them in Week 13. A few players this week mentioned the Titans' home vs. road splits, which tell a better story of what the Colts can expect this weekend in Nashville:
|Yards Per Carry
|Yards Per Pass
|Passer Rating Allowed
|Yards Per Play Allowed
"Playing against Tennessee, there's no secret and no stranger to the energy and mentality that coach Vrabel brings to that team, to that field," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "I know their team is gonna be ready, I know their team is gonna be prepared.
"Playing Tennessee is no secret. You gotta stop the run, you gotta run the ball. I'm looking forward to that challenge."
The formula Franklin laid out is the one the Colts followed to a Week 5 win over the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium, in which Zack Moss rumbled for a career high 165 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (7.2 yards/attempt), while Derrick Henry was limited to just 43 yards on 13 rushes (3.3 yards/attempt). The 43 yards Henry gained were his fewest in a start against the Colts, while Moss' 165 rushing yards were nearly double the second-highest total a single player has had against the Titans in 2023:
And Moss' 56-yard run in Week 5 was the longest allowed by the Titans' defense since Week 1 of the 2022 season.
The Colts will again lean on Moss with running back Jonathan Taylor undergoing a procedure on his thumb that'll keep him out for at least Week 13. On the other side of the ball, the Colts will rely on their defensive tackle depth and collective rallying to tackle for the final week of Grover Stewart's six-game suspension.
"It's 11 men on the field and when we're playing a team like Tennessee," linebacker EJ Speed said, "it takes all 11."
While the Colts have gone from allowing 3.7 yards per carry with Stewart in Weeks 1-6 (10th) to 4.8 yards per carry without Stewart in Weeks 7-12 (28th), they've compensated with a ferocious pass rush (22 sacks, 4th in Weeks 7-12) and ballhawking mentality (10 takeaways, T-5th).
But in their final game without Stewart, the Colts will need to stop the run to generate the sacks and takeaways that've become pillars of their defense over the last few weeks.
"I think each week we say No. 1, stop the run – but probably this week it's No. 1, stop, stop the run," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "It's a special emphasis just because that's what really everything is based off of. If they can get the ball running and now their play-action passes become that much more effective – we have to do a good job up front. Our stats don't show that we're knocking out the run.
"The past couple weeks it's been a give and take on what our philosophy is going into the game, but I think a team like this where you've got great respect for their run game and their ability – I mean, they can get 200 yards on you real quick. We've got to have a special emphasis on that part."
Zooming back out, Sunday's game carries significant playoff implications for the 6-5 Colts, who currently hold the seventh and final spot in the AFC playoffs. Per the New York Times' playoff simulator, the Colts enter Week 13 with a 48 percent chance of reaching the postseason, which will change depending on the result:
- With a win: 65 percent
- With a loss: 36 percent
The Colts haven't won both meetings with the Titans since 2018. But as the calendar flips to December, and the Colts know now is when they need to play their best football, the time is now to knock off Tennessee and move on in the AFC playoff race.
"They've been playing really well at home all year obviously," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Any division game is always going to be a dog fight. Shoot, personally I haven't swept the Titans since I've been here. So, it's a great opportunity to do that and also stack another win in the win column and make this playoff push."