NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Marred by injuries the Tennessee Titans are 2.5 point underdogs Sunday in Indianapolis.
Middle linebacker Rashaan Evans was the latest scratch for the Titans when he was ruled out Saturday because of an ankle injury. Julio Jones will not play due to a nagging hamstring injury, and safety Amani Hooker is out again because of a groin injury.
Both teams are playing some of their best football of the season heading into what is a critical game in the AFC South. The Titans have won three straight including upset victories against the Bills and Chiefs at Nissan Stadium. The Colts have won three of four after starting the season 0-3.
This game features the top two rushers in the NFL- Titans star Derrick Henry and Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. While Henry leads Taylor by almost 300 yards, Taylor is averaging almost a full yard more per carry at 5.5 to Henry’s 4.6.
NFL Leading Rushers-
- Derrick Henry- 869 yards
- Jonathan Taylor- 579 yards
- Joe Mixon- 539 yards
- Nick Chubb- 523 yards
Henry also leads the NFL with 10 touchdown runs, but this Sunday he faces a defense that simply does not give up a lot of them on the ground. The Colts have surrendered 18 touchdowns this season, but only two of them have been on the ground.
“They have been playing lights out,” said Henry, “Credit to them and how they’re playing overall, but the defense has been playing lights out getting the ball out, getting turnovers, flying around to the ball and finishing games. Defense has been playing lights out, but I feel like that’s how that always played though” said Henry.
They may have always played that way, but Henry has enjoyed a lot of success against them topping 100 yards his last four games against Indianapolis including 28 carries for 113 yards earlier this year in Nashville.
The Titans will be shorthanded in the passing game once again with Julio Jones absence, but the last two weeks have seen the return of a healthy AJ Brown.
Brown dominated in last week’s win over Kansas City with 8 catches for 133 yards and his second touchdown of the season. Brown has battled a hamstring injury and food poisoning already this season but said this week he is healthy, has his appetite back and has put back on whatever he lost.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is glad to have his favorite target back. “A.J. [Brown] has been huge for us. You look at the last couple of weeks and what he has been able to do. He’s making plays, he’s getting himself open, he’s great with the ball in his hands, and made some big plays for us down the field this last week,” said Tannehill.
Colts quarterback, Carson Wentz, is much healthier than when they met in week three and he had two sprained ankles. Wentz is meshing with head coach Frank Reich once again and has 11 touchdowns and just one interception this season. He’s facing a reborn Titans pass rush led by Harold Landry’s 7.5 sacks. However, Landry’s health is a concern for the Titans as he missed practice Thursday and Friday due to a hamstring injury.
NFL Sack Leaders-
- Myles Garrett- 9.5 sacks
- Harold Landry- 7.5 sacks
- TJ Watt- 7.0 sacks
- Haason Reddick- 6.5 sacks
Defensive lineman Denico Autry has been a huge piece to the Titans’ new pass-rush puzzle with 3.5 sacks this season. The Titans only had 19 sacks all of 2020, but this season have 17 sacks so far.
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The biggest key for the Titans in this game has to be taking care of the football. The Colts’ defense has been a turnover machine with 7 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries. Their 16 turnovers lead the NFL and their +9 turnover margin is second only to Buffalo. After struggling with turnovers early the Titans are at +4 during their recent three-game win streak.
“They are going after it,” said Tannehill, “You see them hammering at the football almost every rushing play there’s somebody coming in hammering at the football. [Darius Leonard] especially does a really good job. He’s accurate with it and causes a lot of fumbles due to the hammer. That, and they’re making plays on the backend as well. We have to be smart, be secure with the football and take care of it,” said Tannehill.
If the Titans can take care of the ball and get out of Indianapolis with a win they will lead the Colts by three games in the division and own the season sweep with the softest part of their schedule still to come.