Week 14 Preview: Tennessee (4-8) @ Indianapolis (8-4)

After last Sunday’s nail-biting, last-second finish on what can only be called a miracle play, Colts fans may be able to breathe a bit this weekend.

As we near the end of the regular season, I’m noticing something in the Circle City: no longer do I hear my fellow Colts fans lamenting the loss of our beloved Peyton Manning. Indeed, “The House That Peyton Built” (Lucas Oil Stadium, if you were wondering), is singing the praises of one Mr. Andrew Luck and asking “Peyton who?” (but we still love you, #18!). This kid has some serious chops. He can think on his feet. He can throw from the ground. He can take a hit and make a tackle. And he can run. WELL. Man is he fast for as big as he is! Need more proof that he’s not just an arm? Andrew Luck has the third-most rushing yards for the team this season at 216 yards on 44 carries. But with RB Donald Brown out with his second injury of the season and rookie RB Vick Ballard (468yds/127 carries) the only main go-to guy on the ground, the Titans defense had better be ready for a serious air game. As in the past, the Colts have proven themselves a formidable foe in the air with a receiving arsenal consisting of the legendary Reggie Wayne (1156yds/88 receptions/3 TDs), Donnie Avery (675yds/45 receptions/3 TDs), and the impressive hands of rookie T.Y. Hilton (588yds/39 receptions/5 TDs).

But, as always, Colts fans pull back when we talk about the defense. Yeah, they’re rough around the edges. But they’re not THAT bad…they’re certainly better than the Titans. But they are pretty banged up. A majority of the injured/reserve guys are defensive players. Guys are having to switch up, play new positions to fill in holes. I’m not sure how much of that can affect a player’s game, but I know that even moving the furniture in my house makes me flip out a little bit for the first few days. Going from a position that you’ve played your whole career to something potentially entirely new…I’m sure that wreaks havoc on the mind. The Colts defense needs the fans’ support now more than ever. No, they’re not 100%. Hell, I can’t remember the last time we had a defense at 100%. But they sure are giving it their all, and as they learn our new defense and take the baby steps that are needed to create a frightening defense that we have seen with teams like the Ravens, we as fans need to stand behind them. Keep it loud. Give them that fire to make smart decisions and make plays.

S Antoine Bethea (neck) – Probable
RB Donald Brown (ankle) – OUT
OLB Dwight Freeney (non-injury related) – STATUS NOT AVAILABLE
TE Winston Justice (head) – QUESTIONABLE
QB Andrew Luck (knee) – PROBABLE (don’t freak…he spent Weeks 8 & 9 on the list and got on it again in Week 12. He practiced all week.)
OLB Robert Mathis (non-injury related) – STATUS NOT AVAILABLE
DE Cory Redding (ankle) – PROBABLE
G Joe Reitz (head) – OUT
S Tom Zbikowski (knee) – OUT

The struggling Titans are away from home. Quarterback Jake Locker (120/212, 1473yds) has been nursing a sore left shoulder injury since Week 5 and it seems that healthy wide receivers are few and far between: only Nate Washington and Kendall Wright are not listed on this week’s injury report. The Titans’ rushing game is a bit thin, too. While RB Chris Johnson leads the team with an impressive 993 yards on 204 carries, the second-most productive rusher is quarterback Locker (162yds/21 carries). I’d say that things are looking grim on the ground for the Titans. The defense (ranked 27th in the league) doesn’t seem to be faring any better. Sack-leader Kamerion Wimbley (5.0 on the season) is questionable for Sunday with a toe injury, leaving #2 sack-producer Akeem Ayers (4.0 sacks on the season) possibly alone in the successful hunt for Andrew Luck (and that is potentially good news for #12). While other team members have tracked down quarterbacks (9 other Titans all have at least 1 sack this season), I don’t find it likely that Luck will be having to stare defenders in the face as they take him down, which is encouraging considering he has been an endangered species all season.

WR Kenny Britt (knee) – PROBABLE
TE Jared Cook (neck) – PROBABLE
RB Jamie Harper (ankle) – PROBABLE
WR Lavelle Hawkins (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
LG Steve Hutchinson (ankle) – OUT (Kyle DeVan is listed as second-string)
QB Jake Locker (left shoulder) – PROBABLE
LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) – OUT (Tim Shaw is listed as second-string)
LT Michael Roos (knee) – QUESTIONABLE
DB Alterraun Veiner (illness) – PROBABLE
WR Damian Williams (hamstring) – OUT
DE Kamerion Wimbley (toe) – QUESTIONABLE

I see another impressive showing by #12. Home turf energizes him and he tends to keep a clearer head and make better decisions. The air game will be ferocious, but not without the rookie mistakes. The ground game will be there, but I don’t see it being vital to winning this game. The Colts have to convert on third down. I don’t want to see a lot of Pat McAffee this weekend. The defense has to step it up and take Locker down, scare him into making mistakes. There needs to be more pressure against the pass. They have to stop third down conversions. They have GOT to stop Chris Johnson. The Titans passing game is going to be fierce, and the run game is going to be a large factor in their plan of attack. Their defense is going to go after Luck…hard. I’m sure they will blitz the crap out of him. But, if the Colts stick to the plan and make minimal mistakes, there is no doubt that they will come out on top. I’m calling it Colts over Titans, 27-17.


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