NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two weeks into the regular season and the Titans are 1-1.
On Sunday, the Colts (0-2) come to town for a big AFC South matchup.
A look at five things to watch:
Two games into his NFL career, and most everything has gone right for Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. The rookie leads the NFL with a 129.9 rating, which also happens to be the highest passer rating of any player in the Super Bowl era in his first two starts. Mariota's already thrown six touchdowns, and no interceptions. Heck, the guy's cleats are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mariota has made good decisions, and he'll aim to keep it going in the home opener at Nissan Stadium. I'm thinking the fans will give him a pretty nice ovation in his regular season debut.
Protect the QB
Above, I mentioned "most everything" has gone right for Mariota. One exception: Mariota has been hit way too often, and that has to stop. In last week's loss to the Browns, Mariota was sacked seven times, and hit 11 times in all. With guard Chance Warmack out with a knee injury, Jamon Meredith will step it at right guard. The Titans expect Meredith to hold up well on Sunday. But the team will need better protection across the board – the Colts have some dangerous rushers in Robert Mathis and Trent Cole.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has struggled out of the gate. He's already thrown five interceptions in two games, and he's coming off a three-INT game against the Jets. Luck's faux pas have come when he's been under pressure, and hit while getting rid of the football. Look for the Titans to be aggressive on defense, with veteran defensive coach Dick LeBeau ready to turn up the heat. Linebacker Derrick Morgan leads the Titans with three sacks, and Brian Orakpo is ready to get on the board.
Secondary play **
The Titans were mostly solid against the Browns on the back end, but they gave up a pair of big plays deep to receiver Travis Benjamin. The Colts, with Luck, are even more capable of hitting on some deep balls. Receiver T.Y. Hilton has been slowed with a knee injury, but he's dangerous. Donte Moncrief is off to a fast start himself, with 13 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns in just two games. And the Titans can't afford to sleep on veteran Andre Johnson either. Johnson isn't as explosive as he used to be, but he can make plays.
Run the ball
On Week 1, running back Bishop Sankey provided the spark. Last week in Cleveland, it was running back Dexter McCluster, who ran for a team-high 98 yards. The Titans need their running game to be successful week in and week out, since it takes the pressure off of Mariota. Running back Antonio Andrews is expected to be available after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, and he should add a spark. The Colts are ranked 22nd in the NFL in run defense, allowing 124.0 yards per game on the ground.