Tale of the Tape: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Two teams coming off dreadful performances meet in the Thursday nighter as the Indianapolis Colts tangle with the host Tennessee Titans.
The Colts had their most embarrassing game in a long time last week, getting trounced 38-8 by the visiting St. Louis Rams. They'll face off against a Titans team dealing with its own forgettable effort, falling 29-27 against Jacksonville to hand the Jaguars their first victory over the season.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Colts have shown flashes of brilliance under second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, but struggles in the running game and the absence of top target Reggie Wayne have had a negative impact on his effectiveness. Under Luck, Indianapolis is in the middle of the pack in passing yards per game (255.9) while racking up 14 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. The Colts are similarly ranked in rushing yards per contest (110.2) with eight touchdowns.
The Titans are about to be downgraded at quarterback for the second time in 2013 after losing starter Jake Locker to a season-ending foot injury. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in for Locker for three games earlier this season, but didn't fare all that well. Tennessee comes into this one ranked 23rd in the league in passing yards per game (211.7) with 12 touchdowns, and a more impressive 11th in rushing yards per contest (111.2) with eight scores.
The Colts had one of the strongest defenses in the league in the early going, but have regressed over the past month. Indianapolis is now 16th in the NFL in passing yards against per game (241.2), surrendering 13 touchdowns while recording eight interceptions. The run defense has been especially poor this year, allowing the seventh-most rushing yards per outing (126.6) with six touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry.
Tennessee's pass defense is one of the strongest in the league, surrendering the eighth-fewest yards per game (211.3) while giving up just seven touchdowns in the air and hauling in eight interceptions. The run defense hasn't been as solid, sitting 21st in yards surrendered per contest (114.9) while getting torched for 12 scores. The Titans have, however, forced eight turnovers on opposing rushers while recovering five of them - both second in the league.
Indianapolis has fared well in the return game, ranked 11th in average kickoff return yardage (24.5) and 14th in punt return average (9.4). The Colts are 16th in kickoff return average against (24.3) and third in the NFL in opposing punt return average (15.6); they're one of six teams to have surrendered a punt return touchdown. Veteran placekicker Adam Vinatieri has connected on 17-of-20 field-goal attempts this season, but didn't have a single attempt against the Rams.
Tennessee sits 16th in the league in average kick return yardage (23.7) but has struggled mightily on punt returns, ranked 27th with a 6.9-yard average. The Titans are 13th in opposition kick return average (24.8) while limiting foes to just 5.3 yards per punt return. Kicker Rob Bironas is a pedestrian 13-for-16 on field goals this season, but connected from 38 and 40 yards out in last weekend's narrow loss to Jacksonville.
"Losing a guy like Reggie, you can't replace a guy like that, not only his leadership qualities but his production obviously on the field. Guys have been pressed into action and they've got to respond. We're seeing glimpses of what those guys can do, but they got to step up even further." - Colts head coach Chuck Pagano on his receiving corps
"It's Ryan's offense and Ryan's team. So the direction of it can change now. Before it was stopgap - more, 'Hey, this is Jake's offense and we're still going to play to his strengths. We can't make too drastic a change.' Obviously now we need to play to Ryan's strengths and the things he does well." - Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains