INDIANAPOLIS —We've got the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts matching up on Sunday in their 2017 Week 12 AFC South showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With an inside scoop on the opposition heading into the game, we check in with Jim Wyatt, a senior writer and editor for the Titans and their website, TitansOnline.com (follow Jim on Twitter @jwyattsports):Walker:
So the Colts and Titans meet up once again on Sunday for their second matchup of the season, and, really, when you look at the grand scheme of things, not too much has changed when looking at both teams and where they stand since that Week 6 game … the Titans are still very much in the hunt in the AFC South race, while the Colts … they're playing better, I think, but they'll still on the outside looking in. But stick with me here … considering the way the Titans' game went last week against the Steelers, the way the Jaguars continue to roll, and the way Indianapolis is playing better, I've got to imagine the Colts will see a pretty ticked off and focused Titans team coming to Indy on Sunday.**
"Yeah. I mean, they're definitely still smarting from the loss in Pittsburgh where they didn't play very well. And I know a lot of guys in the locker room earlier this week just talked about how they didn't play like they wanted to play and show what they wanted to show across the country. And this is kind of a chance to start things back in motion the way they want to go: six games left, they're a game out of the AFC South, they do have Jacksonville coming in here the final week of the season; if the (regular season) ended today, they'd be in (the playoffs). But a lot of work to do still, and for somebody who's been around this series for a long time, I know that the Titans have not swept the Colts since 2002, and never won a game in Lucas Oil Stadium, so a big challenge ahead, despite the records."Walker:
I was reading the transcript from Mike Murlarkey's press conference on Monday, and it just seemed like he didn't seem too interested in saying too much — would you say that was the case?Wyatt:
"I think he did. He's not much about looking back or looking around the division to see how things stand. He's more of a, 'Let's focus on the present.' And when he's asked about series streaks or asked about past history, I mean, he's always quick to say that, hey, a lot of these guys weren't around for that. But the players, talking to them, they definitely won't hesitate to say that they didn't play well (last) Monday — they're upset about that — and this is a chance to kind of get that bad taste out of their mouths."Walker:
So last time around, Marcus Mariota was hobbled a little bit by a hamstring injury, and you could see it in the game — you could tell he was making an effort to stay in the pocket for the most part and let his other teammates make plays around him. How has he played since then? I mean, he's certainly not the first quarterback to throw four interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers — everyone has a bad game — but how would you say his season has gone to this point?Wyatt:
"Well, he hasn't been himself a good chunk of (the season), and not making an excuse for him, but as you mentioned the first game against Indianapolis he was pretty stationary, and he was like that in several games as he dealt with the hamstring injury. I think he's starting to feel more like himself again, but still probably has some limitations. He's a different guy now than that first Colts game — I mean, he is more willing to take off, he's more willing to do some things on the run. You know, he's not making any excuses for the four interceptions, although some of those could go on the receivers — and Corey Davis, the rookie, took the blame for two of those. He's obviously got to play better himself — you know, his numbers aren't as good as they were last year; part of it's because he's probably been off a little bit, part of it's because there's been more pressure on him, he's had to deal with blitzes, he's had to deal with a receiving corps he's still getting used to. So a lot of factors still needing to come together before Mariota really looks like he did when he was really in a groove last year."Walker:
A new face for Colts fans in this game will be wide receiver Corey Davis, the Titans' fifth-overall pick in this year's NFL draft who was hurt Week 6 and couldn't play, but he's been able to play in three games since then, but hasn't really made much of an impact yet. What do you see in Corey Davis at this point?Wyatt:
"I see a tough-minded kid, and somebody who's physically got everything it takes to be successful — but still needs to get comfortable in the NFL and get used to playing. I mean, he's made a couple mistakes in recent weeks — he fumbled against the Bengals, he lost a fumble going into the end zone, it was a touchback instead of a touchdown, and then last week against Pittsburgh, you know, he didn't really finish a route and the ball was intercepted because of it, and there was another ball intended for him that he kind of took ownership of the interception, as well. He's still finding his way, but he also had made some really impressive catches — you know he's capable of winning one-on-one battles because of the size. I think he's going to be a really good player, but, you know, he's still kind of finding his way, I think is safe to say."Walker:
There was much made about the Titans' lack of sacks up until last week, when they brought Big Ben down three times, which is no easy feat. What's the chatter this week about getting to Jacoby Brissett — I know he's been making a conscious effort to get the ball out quicker, but you've got to imagine Brian Orakpo and his mates are hoping to build momentum from last week.Wyatt:
"Yeah, I think the Titans' mindset is they just need to finish on opportunities that they have. Look back at last year's defense, and at this time they had more sacks than they have right now, but this year the pressures are up after 10 games. And they just have not been able to finish sometimes — either the quarterback's getting the ball out or they're not able to wrap up and get him down. They did have some success with Roethlisberger, but they've got to be more consistent. And I think they feel like the final six games provides them an opportunity to kind of get on a roll and start getting more quarterbacks down and have more game-changing plays. So I think that's a focus going in, is to continue to do everything you can to get the quarterback on the ground."