The table was practically set for the Tennessee Titans to take first place in the AFC South in front of their home crowd on a national stage.
Unfortunately, the 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars had other plans. Now the Titans go into a situation against the Indianapolis Colts where a win is an absolute must to keep the season from going off the tracks.
The Colts dealt with their own letdown this past week as they got blown out by the hapless St. Louis Rams, which left the Titans still with control over their own destiny in the AFC South race.
On a short week, the Titans have to erase this ugly loss to the Jaguars by getting a statement win in the division.
The Titans weren't getting much respect before the loss the Jaguars, and they certainly aren't now. They're rated as No. 21 on Paul Kuharsky's power rankings on ESPN.com.
That's a pretty tough ranking for a team that can climb to within one game from first place in the AFC South with a win. Not to mention they're still right in the mix of that final wild-card spot.
For the Titans to get a big win over the Colts on Thursday night, the defense is going to have to turn in one of their best performances of the season. They're going to be challenged vertically by T.Y. Hilton, who is very capable of taking over the game at wide receiver.
Not sleeping on tight end Coby Fleener will be another priority the Titans secondary will have to focus on. They've been burnt by opposing tight ends in the past, and they can't let it happen here.
Throwing the ball to Hilton will be arguably the toughest quarterback the Titans have faced this season, Andrew Luck.
The Colts don't have much of a running game to rely on, so containing Luck will be key for a Titans defense that just got pushed around by the Jaguars. The high-profile acquisition of Trent Richardson just hasn't worked out so far for the Colts, and the Titans defensive line shouldn't have major problems continuing that trend.
As for the Titans offense, it's Ryan Fitzpatrick's show to run from here on out with the recent news of Jake Locker being out for the season with a foot injury.
Fitzpatrick can win games for this team as long as he doesn't become the turnover machine that ultimately led to his departure in Buffalo. He is more than capable of making all of the reads on a defense that an NFL quarterback needs to make.
Who is going to step up at receiver for Fitzpatrick is another issue. Kendall Wright is certainly playing well, but he can't do it all on his own.
Could this be the week that Kenny Britt has a breakout performance and lives up to his talent? He may not be a fan favorite at the moment, but he can still help this team win games. and Fitzpatrick could certainly use him at this point.
It may be all about a mindset for the Titans heading into Thursday night when it comes to eliminating turnovers, according to Teresa M. Walker of the Associated Press.
Another slow start in this game with the Colts could very well end up in an embarrassing blowout rather than an inspired comeback. The Titans have to start this game in sharp fashion and get back to protecting the ball like they did in the first four games that resulted in a 3-1 start.
The Titans didn't look great on the offensive line against the Jaguars, but the likely return of David Stewart should help with Fitzpatrick's pass protection.
David Stewart practiced and should play vs Colts #Titans— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) November 12, 2013
You obviously can't talk about the Titans' offensive line capabilities without mentioning Chris Johnson. The two fumbles were ugly, but the second one wasn't his fault.
The second fumble was more on the injured Locker not being able to get him the ball cleanly, and the fumble on the first offensive play of the game was his first in more than 150 touches.
Johnson seems to be running with more confidence, and he will need to have a big impact on this game to give the Titans a realistic chance to win.
Even though the short week is always brutal, this could actually end up working in favor of the Titans. They want that nasty taste out of their mouths of losing to a winless team, but so do the Colts after their loss. It will be interesting to see which team comes out with more energy at the start.
The Titans have the opportunity to make everyone easily forget about that loss to the Jaguars by getting this win over the Colts. Everything can quickly turn back into a positive direction with a win.
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