For a game that could be of questionable quality, there certainly are a lot of storylines tied to the AFC South finale for each of these teams. From that opening statement you can conclude that I am not foreseeing the Colts navigating the long and winding path of permutations to the playoffs. That will almost certainly result in the expected removal of Chuck Pagano as head coach. After three consecutive 11-5 seasons, the step back in the win-loss record and missing out on playoffs is one thing, but it’s the turmoil, bad PR and occasionally farcical moments on and off the field on route that contribute nearly as much to the imminent changes in leadership. The Titans will be looking to end a run of 8 straight defeats to the Colts, and they will have as good a chance as any today. While they will be without their rookie franchise quarterback Mariota, they’re still in a better spot at the position than the Colts, who have chosen Josh Freeman over Ryan Lindley to lead them in this one. With Mike Mularkey’s own future uncertain, he’ll certainly be motivated to get the victory. Zach Mettenberger also ought to be keen to put in a strong performance. In his four starts this season, the second year QB from LSU has been picked off 6 times to just 4 touchdown throws. However, Titans fan’s may not be overly upset at a loss, as defeat will secure the right to the number one overall pick in the draft. That isn’t quite as big a deal as it was for the Buccaneers last season, as Tennessee already have their QB of the future in place, but still gives them their pick of a talented group. Given a roster that needs as much new talent as possible, the possibility of trading that top pick to a team wanting to get above the Browns for a QB must be something to strongly consider as well to acquire additional high picks. While it has been an interesting discussion point and given the Colts players hope, if they can’t secure a victory here first and foremost then the rest of the results needed for a wildcard spot are moot anyway. The Colts secured a narrow 35-33 win over their division rivals in week 3. It’s hard to envision such a high scoring one this time around, especially given the unknowns under centre through the week, with both Lindley and Freeman splitting reps in practice each day. It may have been better just to flip a coin and roll with one; surely maximising the reps for one of the two would be far more beneficial for guys who need all the snaps they can get to be ready. Ultimately it’s Freeman who gets the nod, but will do so with much less practice time than he could have had.
Three keys to the game
Can Frank reach another 1,000 yard season?
With the QB situation as it is, expect Frank Gore to be the beneficiary. The veteran back should see plenty handoffs and has a chance at another 1,000 yard rushing season, only needing 109 yards to reach that mark. I say only, but it has been 55 games and counting since the Colts last had a 100 yard back! Good luck Frank.
Can the Titans get Green-Beckham more involved?
Tennessee are looking to next season. And getting their second round receiver more experience before year 2 is a must. While it’s not going to help build chemistry with his primary QB in Mariota, the big target none-the-less needs to get more involved. He’s been over 100 yards in a couple games late in the season but had no catches against the Texans last week. This is a good opportunity against a Colts secondary that has had some struggles this year.
Can the Titans as a team motivate themselves to win?
Last season there’s no question that the Bucs’ late game collapse against the Saints was rather suspicious looking, as they threw away a big lead to instead win the right to the top pick – enter Jameis Winston. That thought process is usually flawed, as staff and many of the players may not be kept around to benefit from new additions next year as a result of a lack of effort. But some veterans who are secure in their futures? It has happened in the past, it could happen again and could play a big part in who wins and who loses.
Matchup to watch
Colts RB Frank Gore vs Titans ILB Avery Williamson
The Titans may be one of the least talented teams in the NFL, but they scored a nice bargain a couple years ago in the draft with former Kentucky Wildcat Williamson. The tackling machine has put up impressive stats, and will likely have a busy day again tracking Gore out of the backfield all game long. As previously mentioned, the Colts seem certain to be handing off the ball as often as Gore can cope with in this one. Williams will be up to the challenge to making it 56 games and counting without a 100 yard Colts rusher.
It’s almost cruel asking to select a winner in this one. The Colts do have the slightest possibility of something to gain from winning. The Titans definitely have something to gain from losing. So as wrong as it feels to suggest Josh Freeman leading Indy to victory, it seems the more likely scenario of the two in a low scoring, but actually potentially fascinating game in a twisted way.