Less than a year ago the Colts looked to be headed for a year in the dumpster while Bud Adams and the Tennessee Titans chased Peyton Manning. While it was unlikely that the Titans landed Manning the distinct possibility certainly raised hopes for Titans fans. Needless to say that didn't work out and now the Colts and Titans are two teams headed in starkly differing directions.
The Titans were expected to be respectable in the division while the Colts rebuilt. The Texans, clearly the class of the AFC South were expected and are within a game of winning the division crown while the Jaguars stayed true to their roots with a year of single-digit wins. Yet the Titans and Colts have had an unexpected reversal in fortune.
Will that continue or will the feisty Titans find pride in time to cause a detour for the Colts' playoff hopes? That brings us to this week's questions!
1. Are the Colts a better team than the one that bested Tennessee earlier this year?
Without question the Colts are a much better team at this point in the year. While predicting a blowout would be ludicrous it's safe to say the Colts must be considered the clear, albeit not heavy, favorites in this game. Given the motivation of possibly clinching a wild card spot next weekend I expect the Colts to play like a superior team to than the one that required some OT heroics to beat the Titans earlier this year.
2. Can T.Y. Hilton make his mark in the record book?
Hilton needs one more 100 yard receiving game to become the first Colts rookie wideout with four games of such productivity. He's emerged as a bright spot among receivers, a group once perceived to be quite deep but has turned out to be Wayne, Hilton and the occasional Donnie Avery appearance. The team needs Hilton to have a solid finish to the season and this is a good spot for Hilton to explode.
3. Will the Colts harrass Jake Locker?
The Titans are struggling to protect their quarterback and that must have this defense excited. The Texans dropped Locker a whopping six times. While the Colts pass rush isn't as dominating as that of the Texans they've got enough speed to make life rough on Locker. Further complicating the matter is the serious nature of injuries to the Titans offensive line. It's a patchwork quilt as they approach this game. Given Locker's recent tendency toward turnovers applying pressure should result in some freebies.
4. Will Andrew Luck and the offense put up big numbers?
One thing I've learned this year is that the obvious never happens. The Jets are a horrible defense in the red zone yet the Colts struggled a bit against them in scoring situations.
Likewise the Titans are simply a horrendous defense. They give up points like my daughter gives out Christmas presents: often and early. The Colts should abuse this defense but given the way this year has gone I'm not counting on it. Don't be surprised if the Colts have to grind out another tough win here. I'd much prefer a blowout.
5. Will Lucas Oil continue to be Andrew Luck's happy spot?
Andrew Luck has proven to be quite happy at home. His TD-to-turnover ratio is markedly better at home. You have to like what that means in this context: the Colts are aware they essentially need two wins to make an incredibly unlikely playoff appearance in Luck's rookie campaign. Luck has clearly mastered the art of the comeback and his grittiness is becoming legendary. Toss in killer instinct and a knack for coming up big in critical games like this and he'll soon stand aside #18 in the minds of Colts fans. Doing all of that at home? Well, that's just icing on the cake.
6. Can Dwayne Allen set the team rookie TE receiving record?
Allen needs just seven catches to record the best rookie receiving season by a tight end in Colts history. Given the legendary tight ends that have played for the team that's a remarkable feat. While it's unlikely the big man gets seven catches this weekend don't be surprised if he gets more than halfway home.
7. Who wins?
Here's an easy one for me: Colts by 7. I'd love to see a blowout since this team has seemingly been content to keep me on the edge of my seat each week. A little stress-relief would go a long way to a smooth holiday season for me. I just don't see it happening due to past history.