The Tennessee Titans (3-3) have been checking items off their “progress” list through the first six games this season, and next on the list is finding a way to beat the Indianapolis Colts (2-4).
The Titans have lost nine straight games to the Colts, and 14 of the last 15.
Tennessee will also find themselves in an eerily familiar position this Sunday as they get another opporunity to deal Indy’s playoff hopes a serious blow at Nissan Stadium.
Last September the 1-1 Titans hosted a struggling 0-2 Colts team with a chance to bury them in the AFC South cellar.
Andrew Luck was struggling, and the entire Colts team was reeling after two dreadful performances to start the season.
Meanwhile, the Titans and their fans were riding a wave of optimism after Marcus Mariota’s record-setting rookie debut a couple of weeks earlier.
It was Tennessee’s home opener, and Nissan Stadium was packed with fans eager to see the dethroning of the bullies in blue and white.
The Titans squandered a 13 point second half lead thanks to a furious comeback effort led by Luck, who threw two touchdown passes in a 56 second span to stun the crowd and pull ahead.
Indianapolis held on for a thrilling 35-33 victory after Tennessee’s failed two point attempt to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
The loss sent the Titans on a downward spiral. They lost their next four games in route to a 3-13 season.
As preparation begins for their matchup this week, deja vu must be setting in for both teams.
As in 2015, the Colts enter Sunday’s game in desperate need of a win. And like a year ago, the Titans are riding a wave of optimism after notching back-to-back wins for the first time since 2013.
If you’re Indianapolis then you have to feel confident heading into this matchup given their recent stranglehold of the series.
Andrew Luck has never lost to the Titans, and as ESPN Staff Writer Paul Kuharsky so eloquently stated yesterday, the psychological advantage weighs heavily in the Colts’ favor.
In the case of the Titans, a lot of the key contributors were not on the team for that game thanks to the massive roster overhaul this offseason.
Key contributors like DeMarco Murray, Jack Conklin, Ben Jones, Rishard Matthews, and Andre Johnson were playing elsewhere that day.
So how can Tennessee break the Colts curse this time? By being who they are and doing what they do.
One thing the Titans haven’t had during their nine game losing streak to Indianapolis was a formidable offensive line and run game.
This time they do.
Tennessee boasts one of the best offensive line / rushing attack combos in the league so far this season, averaging 146.7 yards per game on the ground. Third best in the league.
Coincidentally, stopping the run has been a major issue for the Colts in 2016. They are currently the second-worst defense in the league in that category, giving up 117.7 yards per game on the ground.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans haven’t had a group of players that can consistently get to the quarterback during their losing streak to Indianapolis.
This time they do.
Tennessee recorded six sacks apiece their last two games, and are currently the fifth-best defense in the league in sacks (18).
And coincidentally, protecting Andrew Luck has been a major issue for the Colts’ offensive line this season. They lead the league in sacks allowed with 23…which is essentially four a game.
The Titans have a better offensive line, run game, and defense than the Colts this time. They also have the backing of Vegas, who lists Tennessee as two and a half point favorite.
If the Titans execute, play their brand of football, and of course…eliminate the costly turnover(s), then they should end the steak this Sunday.
If for some reason the streak continues late Sunday afternoon, then Mr. Kuharsky hit the nail right on the head.