Titans at Colts preview

The Tennessee Titans have an opportunity to clinch a wildcard berth in primetime Sunday night when they take on the rival Indianapolis Colts. Win and they’re in, but lose and they’re out. Let’s hope this will not be the final game preview I get to write this season.
Tennessee defeated the Jets 10-6 last week and the Colts spanked the Texans 38-15, their sixth win in a row.
Surface: Field turf. Playing conditions: Climate- and noise-controlled inside the RCA Dome.

Indianapolis scouting report:

Overview – The Colts have managed to compile an impressive 13-2 record while staying under the radar and being overshadowed by the unbeaten Patriots. After the loss of two All-Pro players, coach Tony Dungy may have done his best coaching job this year. Dungy is expected to rest many of his starters this week but the Colts remain a dangerous team.
Offense – This may be one of the most balanced attacks the Colts have had in years. Peyton Manning’s passing numbers are down a little this year but the running game is improved. Manning is expected to play less than one half Sunday night and perhaps no more than a series or two. Longtime backup Jim Sorgi knows the offense well and should have no problems directing it.
Although eight-time All-Pro WR Marvin Harrison has missed ten games with an injury, the other receivers have picked up the slack. Reggie Wayne is bordering on stardom and has improved his stats for the sixth year in a row. TE Dallas Clark is having his best year and is dangerous both off the line and in the slot. Rookie Anthony Gonzalez has fit in nicely.
Second-year back Joseph Addai is very comfortable after taking over as the full-time feature back. He’s also expected to see limited action.
The o-line may be missing RT Ryan Diem another week with Charlie Johnson replacing him again.
The offense is third in the NFL in points scored (29.3 ppg), third in yards (370 ypg), fifth in passing (259 ypg) and 16th in rushing (111 ypg).
Defense – Many of the personnel are different but the Colts still play Dungy’s familiar Tampa-2.
Three-time All-Pro DE Dwight Freeney is on Injured Reserve and RDT Ed Johnson is the only d-line starter remaining from the first matchup in Week Two.
Both starting OLBs from Week Two are sidelined, leaving only MLB Gary Brackett. Extremely active in the middle, Brackett has had an outstanding year and leads the team in tackles. Many felt he was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting.
SS Bob Sanders may be the leading candidate for defensive player of the year honors. He’s a stud who’s a true difference-maker on the field. Vince Young will have to be aware of his whereabouts all night.
CB Marlin Jackson is also having a great year and may be another deserving player who received a Pro Bowl snub.
They’re no longer a weak defense and rank at or near the top of the league in many categories. The D is a league-best against the pass (167 ypg), third in yards (275 ypg), fourth in scoring defense (16.4 ppg) and 17th against the run (108 ypg).

Keys for the Titans:

Offense – Even though Manning will see little playing time, the Titans need to run the ball, control the time of possession and shorten the game, as they always try to do against Indy. Expect LenDale White to carry much of the load against the quick but undersized Colts defense. Tennessee must once again need to be effective in the red zone.
Defense – Pressure by the d-line will be a key again. Third-down defense is important and keeping the Colts out of the end zone and limiting them to field goals remains a priority.

Matchups to watch:

Offense – The Titans o-line against the Colts d-line. Michael Roos and David Stewart should have an advantage over the Colts DEs when the Titans run the ball. Tennessee’s center, either Kevin Mawae or Eugene Amano, will need to block Brackett to run the ball effectively. Someone will have to account for Sanders on every play.
Defense – Kyle Vanden Bosch should fare well against rookie LT Tony Ugoh. Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan should have interesting matchups against Wayne and the Colts receivers. David Thornton and Michael Griffin will have another tough matchup this week in Clark.

Prediction:

The linesmakers have made Tennessee a touchdown favorite because of the expected limited play of Manning and other starters. There’s not that much of a dropoff in talent with reserves on either side of the ball though. The line is only inflated to meet expected bettor tendencies. Each of the last three games between the Titans and Colts have been decided by three points or less with scores of 13-14, 20-17 and 20-22.
Tennessee 20
Indianapolis 17
Check out Colts Couch Crew here on MVN for the other side’s viewpoint.
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