The AFC South division lead and a distinct edge in the playoff race will be at stake Sunday when the Tennessee Titans visit the Indianapolis Colts.
Both teams enter at 7-3 after victories last week. The Titans won 30-24 at Baltimore, and the host Colts defeated Green Bay 34-31. Both games went to overtime.
A loss at Lucas Oil Stadium this week could be very costly in the AFC playoff race, as current wild-card hopefuls Miami (6-4), Cleveland (7-3) and Las Vegas (6-4) all are favored heading into their road games.
Indianapolis already defeated Tennessee on Nov. 12 in Nashville, Tenn., when the Colts used a 21-point second half to prevail 34-17. A win Sunday would give the Colts a one-game lead in the division and the all-important tiebreaker between the teams.
“They know us, we know them,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday. “We did some good things in the first half last time we played them, and then didn’t come out and play good football in the second half.”
Tannehill was 15 of 27 for 147 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting, when Tennessee was outgained 430-294 overall and neither team ran the ball incredibly well.
NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry (1,079 yards, 4.7 avg.) leads a Titans rushing attack ranked fifth in the league. The Colts’ defense, however, is ranked second overall (298.1 ypg.) and third against the run, allowing 89.2 yards per game.
“They play very hard,” Henry said of the Colts. “They fly to the ball. Guys that play great together collectively. Good tacklers. They run their scheme very well. An overall great defense.”
Philip Rivers directs Indy’s offense, which has outscored its last two opponents 41-3 in the second half/overtime.
Rivers, in his first season with the Colts after 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, did not practice Wednesday due to a toe injury suffered against Green Bay. Coach Frank Reich said he expected that another off day on Thanksgiving would enable Rivers to make his 235th consecutive regular season start.
“It’s just really a testament to his mental and physical toughness, and his competitiveness,” Reich said of the streak. “It’s just rare. We all know how rare this is, that’s why we all respect it so much. It’s one of the things that makes him a special player.”
Rivers completed 29 of 39 for 308 yards and a TD against Tennessee in Round 1.
“We keep getting better, that’s natural, and (so has) Philip’s command and presence of the offense,” Reich said. “There was a quick transition (for Rivers) as far as knowing what to do, but now knowing his teammates more and more and having more command, and doing more … (there are) a few more changes, a few more checks … getting a little bit more of that as the season goes on.”
Titans punter Brett Kern is expected to return after missing three games due to a wrist injury. In the teams’ first meeting, a shanked punt by Trevor Daniel and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown cost Tennessee greatly.
“Brett’s one of the best players on our team,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I have a lot of respect for what he does. But he can’t block, he can’t cover.”
Tennessee receiver Adam Humphries, who missed the last three games with a concussion, was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. His status for Sunday’s game will not be determined until later in the week.
Indianapolis placed defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, when nine Colts did not practice, including offensive linemen Quenton Nelson (back/ankle) and center Ryan Kelly (neck). Defensive backs Rock Ya-Sin (illness), S Khari Willis (ribs/shoulder) S Justin Blackmon (illness) also sat out.