INDIANAPOLIS – The regular season now has four games left. The Colts could take a big step toward a 12th playoff berth since 1999 with a win over Tennessee.
The Colts have won six of their last seven. Tennessee is a talented, dangerous team that has dropped four of its last five games.
Divisional games mean a great deal, regardless of records, and they typically are very hard-fought. That has been the nature of this series, and Sunday should follow suit.
Getting their ninth victory is the aim for the Colts on Sunday, and here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
REPEAT GROUND SUCCESS – Indianapolis gained a season-high 171 rushing yards in the first meeting, a 19-13 overtime win. After 49 yards in the opening half, the Colts took off. The game-tying score came after a fourth-and-one conversion. The overtime drive was spurred by a continued ground assault. Rush well, my friend.
UNDERSTAND THE THREAT – The last time these teams met in Indianapolis, the Colts were 0-13 and the Titans were 7-6 with playoff aspirations – Colts 27, Tennessee 13. Colts players know the challenge ahead. Bruce Arians has kept the team focused and says there are no "trap" games. Play hard for 60 minutes.
BOTTLE HIM UP – Some things are too obvious and any time you are facing a rusher who topped 2,000 yards in a season, stopping him is a priority. Chris Johnson also has an NFL-record five scoring runs of 80 or more yards. His longest carries against Indianapolis are 35 and 37 yards. Don't let him loose. He will get plenty of chances.
TAKE THE FIFTH – Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the only Colts around to see the last non-sellout at home (2003). This is the 86th straight sellout. Fans should show up in a playoff-type frenzy. They want a fifth straight home win. Use Sunday to your advantage. Home games are too important to lose.
FIND REGGIE – Sometimes a statistical note is too good not to use. Wayne has been a part of many victories and finding him in the passing game never hurts. He is looking for his league record 61st straight game with three or more receptions. Extending the streak would put him past 100 career receptions against Tennessee, and that would match him doing it also against Houston and Jacksonville. It would make Wayne the eighth player with 100 or more receptions against three or more teams. He would join Tim Brown, Andre Reed and Cris Carter (who did it against four opponents), as well as Art Monk, Jerry Rice, Rod Smith and Hines Ward. Reggie, Reggie!
THEIR BIRONAS – Their Bironas has "the knack" for deciding games and can do so from long distances. (EDITOR'S NOTE: You have to acknowledge a great in-stadium promotion for a player.) Bironas is the third-most accurate field goal kicker in league history (86.1 percent). Since 1970, his 76.6 percentage from 40-plus yards is the best mark, as is his 73.3 mark from the 50-yard range. Colts fans remember his 60-yard game-winner in 2006. Ouch. Keep him out of position.
WIN THE INCREMENT – It's a broader context than just this game, but coaches are fond of breaking the season down in quarters. A team that goes 3-1 over every four-game stretch never would fail to make the playoffs. The Colts were 2-2 in the season's first quarter, then went 3-1 twice. Sunday starts the fourth quarter, the most important one, and getting a win is a great start.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Bruce Arians (on Tom Moore, who is assisting the Tennessee coaching staff)
"Tom is a lifer. I love him. When I saw him in Jacksonville (when we played the Jaguars), he was champing at the bit to coach again. He said, 'I'm going to get back out there.' I didn't know it would be that soon. I'm really happy for him because I know that's what he wants to do."