NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans (1-2) hit the road for their second consecutive road game and first AFC South matchup of the season against the Indianapolis Colts (1-2) Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After dropping their first two games of the season, the Colts rebounded last week with a 44-17 drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes in the game, bringing his league-leading total to nine TDs on the season.
The Colts have dominated the divisional matchup of late, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings, including five straight. They hold a commanding 25-14 advantage in the all-time series. A division title in 2014 would give Indianapolis its third straight and 14th in the past 16 seasons.
That said, the Titans held second half leads in both meetings last season, including the Week 13 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium. Down 12-7 in the third quarter, Chris Johnson scored from one-yard out to give the Titans a 14-12 lead. A late third quarter field goal by Adam Vinatieri put the Colts on top 15-14 before Donald Brown's four-yard touchdown run put the game on ice at 22-14 late in the fourth quarter.
Each of the last four meetings have been decided by eight points or less. The big plays in crunch time have been Tennessee's downfall and it's what they'll look to correct on Sunday.
Here are the five points of emphasis that will help the Titans break the streak against their division rivals.
Five Things to Watch:
1. Start Fast Offensively
The offense looked ready to turn things around in the first half at Cincinnati, orchestrating a long drive into Bengals territory, but resulted in a miss field goal. The Titans outgained the Bengals offensively 186-142, but two turnovers and two missed field goals left the team scoreless for the second straight week going into halftime.
The Titans will look to score their first points in the opening quarter this Sunday against the Colts.
2. Red Zone Efficiency
This is an area where the Titans have struggled on both sides of the ball. Tennessee's defense has allowed touchdowns on 70 percent of opponent's trips inside the red zone (tied for 29th in the NFL). Alternately, the offense is only scoring on 42 percent of its red zone trips (tied for 23rd in the NFL) with a league-low four touchdowns.
3. Win 3rd Down
The Titans held the Chiefs to 1-of-12 on third down in their Week 1 win in Kansas City. The defense will strive for an encore performance against Andrew Luck to keep the Colts QB off the field.
Offensively, the Titans will need to improve on third down as well. After converting their first pair of third downs against the Chiefs, the Titans went 0-for-10 the rest of the game. The Titans rank 31st in the NFL with a 29 percent conversion rate on third down this season.
4. Avoid the Deep Ball
The Colts main receiving deep threat, T.Y. Hilton, is expected to be active Sunday after leaving last week's game with an ankle injury. Andrew Luck will certainly take a few shots downfield for Hilton, who has a reception of 60 yards or longer in each of his first two NFL seasons.
Tennessee has done a fine job of avoiding the big play thus far, still having yet to allow a pass play beyond 30 yards through three weeks.
5. Feed the Hot Hand
Delanie Walker has easily been Tennessee's most productive receiving weapon. The playmaking tight end leads the team in receptions (17), receiving yards (233), and touchdowns (2). Walker has another tasty matchup this week against the Colts.
In Week 1, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas posted seven catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns. The very next week, the Colts allowed 86 yards to Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
Walker told reporters Friday that his shoulder has improved drastically this week and he expects to be a go come Sunday. Don't be surprised to see another big game out of the second-year Titan.
This week's game will be televised regionally on CBS, including Nashville affiliate WTVF NewsChannel 5. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties, and Rich Gannon will serve as analyst.
The Titans Radio Network, including Nashville flagship 104.5 The Zone, will broadcast the game across the Mid-South with the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith, analyst Frank Wycheck, gameday host Rhett Bryan and sideline reporter Jonathan Hutton.