Week 11 Preview: Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

Intro: The Colts are about to embark on a stretch that will decide their playoff fate. Here’s the Week 11 preview of the Colts (4-5) hosting the Titans (5-5) on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

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INDIANAPOLIS – An NFL game will be played Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It's a big one within the AFC South, with major ramifications for January football.

Another significant event will take place inside of Lucas Oil on Sunday.

The Colts, who will take on the Titans in Week 11, are also honoring their Super Bowl XLI team in the 10-year anniversary of capturing the Lombardi Trophy.

Robert Mathis is one of just two players who was a part of the past and the present.

He wants the present to acknowledge the past.

"I want the younger guys on the team now to see this," Mathis said earlier this week of the Super Bowl XLI reunion. "Championships are forever. You are set in stone. This is lifetime friendships and brotherhood. That's something no one can ever take away from you."

Once the halftime ceremony is complete on Sunday, the 2016 Colts will re-take the field trying to have a chance at making the type of run the '06 team embarked on a decade ago.

The Colts are 4-5, two games behind the division-leading Houston Texans, with seven weeks remaining.

Yep, the margin for error is thin.

"I mean, it's playoff football, really," Pagano says of where his team stands in relation to trying to clinch a playoff berth.

"Seven games left. You've got a huge division game, division rival coming to town."

The feeling is pretty mutual down in Nashville.

Tennessee has positioned itself in the middle of the AFC South race in November---something the Titans haven't been able to say for a long time.

No one needs to remind the Titans that to be true contenders, they must halt a 10-game losing streak to the Colts.

"I think this is the biggest game for us this year," Titans' tight end Delaine Walker says of playing the Colts.

"Since I have been here I don't think we have beaten the Colts, so I am pushing that and telling everybody that that has to be our main objective---to beat the Colts. If we want to be the leaders in this division this is one team that we have to beat so I think this is going to be our biggest game."

With the Texans (6-3) heading to Mexico City to take on the Oakland Raiders (7-2) this week, the chance is there in Week 11 for the AFC South to have some shake up.

Who will be doing the shaking?

"Everything is right there (and) we have a great opportunity," Pagano says.

"The race is on. These are all playoff games as far as we are concerned. If you have a hard time getting up for that then you shouldn't be in this business."

INTERESTING MATCHUPSColts offensive line versus the Titans pass rush:Joe Philbin looked at a very healthy offensive line this week during practice. It comes in handy especially with Tennessee having a strong pass rush. The Titans have got after the quarterback frequently in 2016 (28 sacks) and have protected Marcus Mariota very well (just 14 sacks allowed).

Titans running game versus the Colts defensive front: DeMarco Murray, the NFL's second leading rusher, will likely see north of 20 carries on Sunday afternoon. With Marcus Mariota's ability to run, the Titans are unique and force defenses to be really on top of their gap discipline. This is a big play offense coming to Lucas Oil Stadium. Tennessee has 22 passing plays of at least 25 yards (sixth most in the NFL) and 38 runs of at least 10 yards (third most in the NFL).

QUICK FACTS

  • The Colts have beaten the Titans 10 straight times, and in 15 of the last 16 meetings.
  • In his three healthy games this season, Donte Moncrief has a touchdown catch in each of those.
  • With 108 rushing yards, Frank Gore would pass Tony Dorsett for eighth on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
  • The Titans have averaged 33.7 points per game the last six weeks, tops in the NFL.
  • In his past six games, Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown for 17 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a 119.0 rating.
  • Titans' kicker Ryan Succop has made 29 straight field goals from inside of 50 yards.

NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the recent play of Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota):

"The offense overall is playing at a high level, running the ball as good as anybody in the league. The offensive line is playing well. The skill positions are playing well. Marcus (Mariota) is a great game manager and he's doing a great job of making decisions. He's taking care of the football. His completion percentage is over 70 percent in the last three ball games. His quarterback rating is as good as anybody's. He's efficient. They have early down success, explosive plays. They're making explosive plays as good as anybody in the league – plus-20 passes, plus-10 runs. He can beat you with his arm. He can beat you with his legs. He's making great decisions, like I said, and he's being efficient, he's taking care of the football and they're spreading things around. He's playing with a great deal of confidence right now, as well as everybody around him."

Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the reunion of the Super Bowl XLI team):

"They're honoring them at the game. It will be a neat deal for those players that played on that team, past and a few present. We've got a couple still playing on our team that'll have a chance to see those guys. It's a great opportunity for all the guys that won that Super Bowl that year to get back together and celebrate, share some memories and some stories and things like that. That's great for them, but again, our focus is on the Titans and preparation for that. We're going to have to be at our very, very best to have a chance in this ball game."

Colts Inside Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson(on Chuck Pagano saying that playoff football has arrived for the Colts):

"No doubt about it. Right now is where you have to win the games at home. Right now, we have an advantage when we play at home and we have to take full advantage of it. Granted we're not going to take these guys lightly. The first game we played was back and forth. We know them and they know us. From a defensive standpoint, we have to make sure we keep DeMarco (Murray) in between the tackles. You look at last game, I believe the first or second play of the game he spun off a 60, 70-yard run, so he's capable of taking it anywhere on the field. We just have to make sure we gang tackle and make sure we keep him in between the tackles when he runs."

Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey(on the running culture he's wanted to establish in Tennessee):

"That's the one thing that's been really a clear and consistent message since I took over in the middle of the season last year of what we are trying to build here. It was hard to build it in the middle of a season, there weren't a lot of changes that could be made when I took over, but when they all came back in here in April and now there's a new GM and a lot of new things, the message hadn't changed that this is what we were looking for and this type of player, the tough, dependable, team-first, physical player. I think they've watched this trait for those guys, draft those guys, sign them in free agency, keep those guys and then if they weren't those guys, move those guys on so we've kind of been building this thing. Again, we have plenty room to still work at this, but they know what we're demanding here and that has not changed since I'd been coaching tight ends back in Tampa in the 90's. I've always preached that with positions or offenses or teams, the message just never changed and the staff believes in it and that's why these guys are on this staff."

Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey(on the division outlook the rest of the way):

"I think somebody is going to come out of this pack pretty strong at some point. That's typically the case in these seasons where we're in a pack and then all of a sudden somebody just explodes out of it and gets a bunch of wins in a row. I'm hoping that's us, but I know that's going to happen, it happens every year."

Titans Tight End Delaine Walker(on what makes Marcus Mariota such a special talent):

"I think the way he prepares, he is probably one of the hardest working guys on this team. He is the first one here and the last one to leave. He is preparing a little different because he has had some turnovers that he questioned that it could've been his fault and why that happened. The guy works very hard to not let that happen and the past few weeks he has been trying to take care of the ball and I think that is the difference you are seeing in his performance."

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