Now, it is only Week 10, but if the Colts win this divisional game on the road, it can have big implications for the remainder of the season.
Heading into Week 9, both the Colts and the Titans were sitting at 5-2. The Titans were coming off two losses and giving up some ground in the division. Week 9, unfortunately, didn’t help the Colts close that gap any further. The Titans beat up on the Bears to get back in the win column, while the Colts lost a difficult matchup to the Ravens.
Now, it’s time to throw Week 9 away and focus on the divisional matchups that will occur over the next few weeks. The Colts play 5 of their next 8 games against divisional opponents, including 4 of their next 6 against the Titans and Texans. The next few weeks will determine who will win this division. Thursday night is a great place to prove the Colts have what it takes to win it.
The most important question remains: how should the Colts go about getting their first divisional win of the year? Lucky for you, that’s what I’m here to tell you.
1) Attack Derrick Henry
The Colts’ run defense is excellent. Currently, they’re third in the league in total yards per game allowed on the ground. The Ravens run the ball on everyone with almost no issue. They proved that in Week 8 versus an excellent Steelers front. However, in Week 9, this Colts team held the Ravens to their lowest rushing total of the year and nearly 70 yards fewer than their season average.
The Colts’ reward? Derrick Henry.
Congratulations, you slowed down the league’s best rushing attack; now try and stop Derrick Henry on a short week. Luckily for the Colts, they have the personnel to make it happen.
The Titans employ a similar gameplan to the Ravens: they run the ball effectively and attack defenses in short-yardage situations. How do you combat that? Attack Derrick Henry. Force the Titans into third-and-long situations and force them to become one-dimensional. A lot easier said than done. If the Colts can limit Derrick Henry, they have an excellent shot to win.
Darius Leonard will be a huge part of that success. Leonard has been playing out of his mind since his return from injury, as evidenced by a game-high 15 tackles in Week 9. The Colts are going to need a lot of Darius Leonard in this game.
2) Do. Not. Turn. The. Ball. Over.
This is turning into a weekly discussion at this point, but it remains true especially in Week 10. The Titans currently hold the league’s best turnover differential at +10. Good teams win the turnover battle and that is a large reason why Tennessee is 6-2. If the Colts cannot limit their turnovers, they will lose. I’m not even worried about forcing any turnovers; strictly about preventing them.
Ryan Tannehill only has 4 turnovers through 8 games this year. If the Colts are able to force turnovers from this Titans offense, it will just be an added bonus. The Colts need to focus on playing good solid defense and not turning the ball over on offense. If they get anything extra on defense, it just makes their job that much easier.
3) Offense, Show Me Something:
As of late, the offense seems to be lacking an identity. The early-season loss of Marlon Mack seems to be hurting now more than ever. The Colts have become inefficient running the ball. Currently, they’re ranked 23rd in the league in rushing yards per game and 31st in yards per carry.
The Colts are in trouble.
Luckily, the Titans may be just what the doctor ordered. They’re currently ranked in the bottom-half of the league in total yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and rushing yards allowed per game. They’re also historically bad on third downs, giving up 1st downs over 55% of the time.
The offense has had moments of brilliance this year, including both of their wins against the Bengals and the Lions. Now, it is time to show it against a playoff-caliber team.
The Titans are vulnerable on defense. The Colts offense has to show some life early and often in order to win this game. If the offense does what I know they’re capable of, it gives the defense that much more wiggle room. It’s time for this team to get going on both sides of the ball, and the offense has to catch up with the defense.
It is time to put up or shut up. Winning the division starts here on this short week in November.
It is time to find out if the Colts have what it takes to be the top dog in this division.