Indianapolis is coming off its worst loss since 2011, and Tennessee just became the first team to lose to the Jaguars. So both the Colts and Titans are eager to play again, even if their bodies still ache with a four-day turnaround.
The faster the better so at least one team can ease the pain in this AFC South showdown.
“That we can get back on the field as soon as possible and atone for our sins if you will,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said of playing Thursday night. “I’m sure the Titans are feeling the same way.”
The Colts lost 38-8 to St. Louis and former Titans coach Jeff Fisher last week in their worst loss since being routed by 55 points in New Orleans in 2011. They fell behind early — again — and Luck couldn’t pull them out of another hole. Still, they have a two-game lead over the Titans in the AFC South, and a win would give them a road victory over each divisional team.
“We know that’s going to be a heavyweight fight,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
The Titans not only are trying to bounce back from a short week but also the loss of their starting quarterback. Jake Locker suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot in last week’s 29-27 loss to Jacksonville, moving Ryan Fitzpatrick into the lineup for the rest of the season.
This is the first of two games between these teams in three weeks. A Tennessee win not only trims the Colts’ lead in the division but keeps a franchise chasing its first playoff berth since 2008 in the mix for the AFC’s final wild-card berth.
“Being able to get the Colts two times in three weeks, that’d be pretty good for us if we can pull that off,” Titans running back Chris Johnson said.
Here are five things to watch Thursday night between the Colts (6-3) and Titans (4-5):
n Bounce back Colts: Under Pagano, the Colts are a perfect 7-0 in games after a loss. Pagano credits his players and coaches for believing in their system. Titans coach Mike Munchak pins the success on one person: Luck. The quarterback stole two wins from the Titans last season, rallying the Colts to an overtime win in Nashville, and from 13-down at halftime in Indianapolis.
“They have a quarterback that no matter what the score is can bring you back and win football games a lot in a short period of time,” Munchak said. “The key is their quarterback staying healthy, and he usually plays very well.”
n Titans’ curse: Safety Bernard Pollard says the Titans are cursed, something they must break. The veteran who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore last season said the Titans are too talented a team to keep finding ways to lose. To him, the curse is being complacent and comfortable on a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008. Munchak said he thinks his Titans are motivated and played sloppy with four turnovers against the Jaguars.
n Replacing Wayne: T.Y. Hilton has had two of his four 100-yard receiving games in the two outings since the Colts lost Reggie Wayne to a torn ACL. But the Colts need more from their other receivers. The other four receivers combined for just one more reception (eight) than Hilton had all by himself (seven) against the Rams. The Colts promoted Da’Rick Rogers off the practice squad to give Luck more options.
n Colts’ domination: Whether it’s Peyton Manning or Luck at quarterback the Colts dominate the Titans. The Colts have won three straight in this series and eight of the last nine. The Titans’ last win against the Colts came Oct. 30, 2011, in Nashville with Manning sidelined by neck surgery and Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback for Tennessee. The Titans cut Hasselbeck in March looking to save some money, and now he’ll be on the Colts’ sideline backing up Luck.
n Fitzmagic time, please: The Titans now are in Fitzpatrick’s hands. He was 0-2 replacing Locker last month, losing to the Chiefs and at Seattle. Fitzpatrick threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns with a 111.2 passer rating coming off the bench last week, and he also ran for another score. In his last start against the Colts in 2010 in Buffalo, Fitzpatrick threw for three TDs with no interceptions and a 120.8 passer rating.