Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (+6, 39)
Titans in control
The Titans entered last year’s final game needing three other teams to lose, combined with their own victory, in order to make the playoffs. They didn’t make it, but it’s a lot simpler this time around.
Tennessee just needs a win in Indianapolis to secure a postseason berth for the first time in four seasons. Despite the Colts’ insistence that they will play a weakened team in a game that means nothing for them, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch warned that the Titans should expect a tough ride.
"I think we would be making a big mistake by thinking we're going to go in there and beat up on some backups," he told the Associated Press.
"Indianapolis is the defending world champ. That says a lot about their depth. They've been banged up for a good part of the year, playing with some backup guys.”
The Colts have dominated the Titans in recent seasons, winning seven of the last eight meetings. But Tennessee has managed to keep the score within three points or less in the last three meetings.
"What we've got to do is just stay focused and play our game,” quarterback Vince Young told the AP. “I really feel like we match up with the guys pretty good. All we've got to do is just not think about what's ahead and just think about that game on Sunday.”
A Tennessee loss means the Browns will make the playoffs. The team that advances will face either San Diego or Pittsburgh in a wild card game next week.
Sorgi to see time
Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has remained tightlipped about his plans for the Tennessee game, but he is certain that backup quarterback Jim Sorgi will be featured prominently in a game for the first time in two seasons.
Peyton Manning will make the start before handing over the reigns to his backup.
"I know Jim Sorgi's going to play at least a half,” coach Dungy told Indianapolis Star this week. “I don't know how early he'll get in the game, or if he'll get in the first half.”
The Colts have found themselves in a similar situation twice before. They had secured their playoff spot and seeding before the final game during both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns. Manning played the first series and then spent the rest of the game on the bench on both occasions. The same was true of several other front-line starters.
Injuries could also impact Dungy’s decision making. He already ruled out defensive tackle Raheem Brock, tight end Ben Utecht, cornerback Tim Jennings and offensive tackle Ryan Diem.
Defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea are both doubtful.
While Dungy is unsure of his starting lineup, he is expecting a strong performance from whoever takes the field.
"You coach your team and you really can't worry about anybody else,” Dungy said. “We've got to get ourselves ready to go and just play the best we can and get ourselves ready for the playoffs.”
The Colts have one other piece of injury news that could have a major impact on this game. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison is expected to play against Tennessee, his first appearance since the Oct. 22 game at Jacksonville.
The eight-time Pro Bowl receiver injured his knee in late September and missed 11 games, including the last nine straight. Dungy told the Indianapolis Star that Harrison “felt good” in practice this week and that he took repetitions with the No.1 offense on Thursday and Friday.
"He's a guy that if he didn't play this week, I wouldn't be worried about him,” Dungy said. “If he's feeling good and healthy two weeks from now, I'd think he'd have a great game."
Harrison has 247 yards and one touchdown in five appearances this season. He registered a combined 201 yards and two TDs in two games against the Titans last year.
Head to head
The Colts have won seven of their last eight meetings with Tennessee, but the Titans have covered the spread in the last three. Five consecutive series games have gone under the total.
Indianapolis is 9-6 ATS overall this season, while the Titans are 7-8.