It’s time for Thursday Night Football and tonight’s match-up consist of two teams trying to bounce back from bad losses last week. When it comes to the Colts, they are coming off a terrible loss to the St. Louis Rams, where they turned the ball over four times. On the other side you have the Tennessee Titans who allowed the win-less Jacksonville Jaguars to get their first win of the season.
While both teams are fighting to bounce back from their recent losses, coming into this game both teams have plenty to fight for besides pride. The Colts are currently leading the AFC South at 6-3 but they only have a two game lead and the Tennessee Titans are right behind them at 4-5 and looking to close the gap. A win for the Titans would only put the Titans one game behind the Colts but a win for the Colts would increase their lead back to three games. There is no doubt that both teams are capable of winning this game but only if they follow certain keys to victory.
Colts Keys to Victory
Offensively, this Colts offense must get back on track and fast, starting with the turnovers. While the entire Colts offense struggled last game against the Rams, what made it worst was the four turnovers, which are unacceptable. Going into this game, the first priority should be to take care of the ball and limit any form of turnovers.
The next offensive key is quarterback Andrew Luck. He seem extremely shaken after fumbling the ball in the first quarter of last game and was inaccurate for the rest of the game. While I can understand that he was frustrated and shaken, he can’t allow those type of mistakes to take him out of the zone. Going into this game, he must get back to being Luck. He needs to do a better job of not rushing his reads and making accurate throws. However, I must say for Luck to get back on track, the receiving core must get back on track as well. I said life could be difficult at times for the Colts after losing wide receiver Reggie Wayne and I see I was right. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has stepped up seeing that he caught seven passes for 130 yards last game but after that, no one else stepped up. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to be inconsistent and some even say he is a liability when they clearly need him to be asset. While I do feel Luck needs to get back on track, he can’t do without his receivers stepping up. Hilton needs to continue playing at high level but it’s time for Heyward-Bey to step up along with running backs Donald Brown and Dan Herron, who are capable receivers out of the backfield. Also look for tight end Coby Fleener to step up and become a big target for Luck, especially in this game.
Which leads me to the running game which is still extremely inconsistent. Running backs Trent Richardson and Donald Brown continue to be stopped last week and I must say that is just sad. Think about it, the Rams have been one of the worst run defenses in the NFL right now and the Colts were not able to run the ball at all. This running game must find some way to be productive or the Colts will remain one-dimensional making it easier for defenses to focus on the passing game. The running game doesn’t have to be great but it needs to offer balance. However, I also feel the Colts can’t abandon the running game when it doesn’t have immediate success. The Colts have some third down inconsistency issues this season and it’s because they tend to abandon the run and put Luck in long third down situations, that needs to change.
Defensively, it all starts with making the Titans one-dimensional and it starts with contain running back Chris Johnson. The Titans average 113 rushing yards a game and the Colts must contain that and force quarterback Ryan Fitzparick to beat them in this game. As a defense last week, they were solid. Despite Tavon Austin’s great game, the defense was not destroyed last week. Rams running back Zac Stacy only rushed for 62 yards and they contain quarterback Kellen Clemens. The problem the Colts had last week, was giving up big plays and allowing the Rams to execute on some huge third down plays. Going into this game, they can’t afford to do that again and if they are able to slow down Johnson, I believe the Colts secondary can handle Fitzpatrick through the air.
Titans Keys to Victory
Offensively, it all starts with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Going into this game the main he thing he must not do is turn the ball over. He is capable of leading this team to victory but he needs to take what the defense gives him and make the reads I know he is capable of making. However, just like the Colts passing situation, Titans need other receivers to step up. Wide receiver Kendall Wright has played well so far this but he still needs help from other parts of the receiving core. I don’t know about you but I think it’s time for wide receiver Kenny Britt to step up and play like the player he claims to be.
This Titan offense also needs to running back Chris Johnson to play well in this game, because he keeps this offense from being one-dimensional. While there is no doubt that Fitzpatrick is capable of leading his team to victory, he still needs to help to do that. So I look the for the Titans to run the ball often which will help move the chains, take pressure of Fitzpatrick and open up some big play opportunities.
Defensively, the Titans need to make the Colts one-dimensional and that starts with containing the run game. While there is no doubt that the Colts running game has had its issues this season, no one can deny that the Titans run defense has had struggles of their own this season. So I look for the Titans defensive line to step up and do their best to slow down Richardson and if they are able to do that, it will allow the defense to focus more on the passing game.
When it comes to containing the passing game, the Titans have tough job on their hands. I feel the Titans must first do their best to slow down wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who is the Colts main vertical threat and the Titans don’t want to allow him to take over. As I mentioned earlier, since Reggie Wayne’s injury, Hilton has been the only one to step up, so I feel the Titans should do their best to force Luck to beat them without Hilton and challenge the other wide receivers to step up. However, the Titans do need to be weary of tight end Coby Fleener, who I mentioned earlier as a possible target for Luck. While I have no doubt that the Titans secondary is capable of holding their own, this season they have had issues covering the tight end position and they can’t allow that to happen in this game.
I said in the beginning of this article, that this is important game for both teams and not just because they are trying to bounce back from bad losses. Both teams are fighting for the AFC South Title and a playoff chance and with the season winding down, there is no time to waste. I expect this to be a good game and full of great plays. You never know, it may just go down to the wire, you have tune in to find out.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com