As for his coach, well, even the optimist in Tony Dungy knows the momentum -- and the math -- are against the Indianapolis Colts after Monday night's 31-21 loss to the NFL's hottest team.
"In the grand scheme of things, winning the division is going to be tough to do," he said.
The defeat dropped the five-time defending division champions four games behind Tennessee (7-0) and left Indianapolis (3-4) in an unfamiliar position: at the bottom of the division looking up. Way up.
The Colts have plenty of company in the cellar. Houston and Jacksonville are also stuck at 3-4, a trio of quickly vanishing specks in Tennessee's rearview mirror.
It's a view the Colts have enjoyed much of the decade. Tennessee's win in front of a raucous crowd on a night, when they honored former stars Steve McNair, Eddie George and Frank Wycheck, might not have been a changing of the guard, but there was something familiar in the way the Titans won.
For years the tipped balls, big plays and even bigger stops have belonged to the Colts.
Not anymore. This year it's Tennessee getting all the bounces.
"We just capitalized on some of the mistakes that Peyton Manning and some of the Colts made," said Tennessee safety Chris Hope, who intercepted Manning twice. "It's the same thing they've done to us in the past."
The Colts will have to draw from that past if they want to pull themselves out their current funk. The last time they were below .500 after seven games was 1998. Back then, Manning was a rookie trying to prove himself on a rebuilding team while Dungy was leading a renaissance in Tampa Bay.
A decade later, a renaissance isn't necessary. But Manning thinks an attitude makeover might be in order.
"I hope we play a little ticked off," Manning said. "There's a healthy way to be angry and try to bounce back and do something about it."
Being healthy -- angry or otherwise -- would help.
Running back Joseph Addai missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Safety Bob Sanders sat out again while recovering from knee surgery.
Still, the Colts had their chances.
Tied late in the third quarter, they went for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield only to have Dominic Rhodes dropped for a loss. Trailing by three early in the fourth quarter, they went for it again on fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 34. Manning's pass to Marvin Harrison was knocked down.
In a physical, bruising game that the Colts needed to win, they let too many opportunities slip away. Tight end Dallas Clark, who caught both of Manning's touchdown passes, called the difference between winning and losing in the NFL the finest in sports.
"It's what makes this game so great," said tight end Dallas Clark, who caught both of Manning's touchdown passes. "When you're on the other end of it, it makes it awful."
It certainly looked awful for the Colts in the game's final 25 minutes. Tennessee ripped off 25 straight points after trailing 14-6, leaving Indianapolis defensive end Raheem Brock shaking his head as he slowly walked off the field with the highlights blaring from the scoreboard.
"We just made little mistakes that cost us," Brock said. "To see it, to see how easy it is, it's hard."
The schedule offers little relief.
The Colts host surging New England (5-2) on Sunday and travel to Pittsburgh and San Diego before Thanksgiving. They won't get another shot at the Titans until the season finale. By then, the division title may have been sew up for weeks.
Not that the Colts can afford to dwell on it.
"We've got to realize that there's a lot of season left," Clark said.