Over the last five weeks we have all watched with amazement as the Tennessee Titans, fueled by the re-emergence of Vince Young and the seemingly unstoppable Chris Johnson, have reeled off five straight victories after opening the season 0-6.
During that stretch, their competition consisted of two teams that beat them earlier in the season—Jacksonville and Houston—the somewhat inept Buffalo Bills, the surprisingly stout San Fransisco 49ers, and the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.
Despite close scores in the last two games, they really didn't struggle too much against any of them.
But this week is different. This week, they face the inter-division rival Indianapolis Colts in Indy.
The undefeated Colts.
Needless to say, this game is huge for the Titans. Not only do they need the win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but the Colts wil be the truest test yet of whether Vince Young and Chris Johnson are what we think they are, to steal a phrase. As evidenced by their undefeated record, Indy is no push-over.
Peyton Manning is the type of quarterback who can hurt you quickly; it could be that no matter how well Young and Johnson play, their defense wil let them down; though their play has improved of late, the Titans' secondary hasn't exactly faced off with Hall of Fame-bound competition.
Not to take anything away from these guys—after all, they were skilled enough to make it to the NFL—but the names David Gerrard, Trent Edwards, Alex Smith, Matt Schaub, and Matt Leinart don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of defensive backs throughout the NFL.
Manning, on the other hand, has accomplished enough in his career to schedule his Hall of Fame jacket fitting.
Indianapolis's defensive unit isn't populated by slouches either; along with ranking third in total points allowed, the group boasts 26 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 13 interceptions, two of which they have returned for touchdowns.
The group also includes names like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Bob Sanders, all names that deserve the utmost respect for their ability.
Couple the stiff competition with the fact that Tennessee is on the road, and what you have is a season-maker, or a season-breaker.
Win, and the Titans not only make the AFC wildcard race that much tighter, but they justify the accolades that Young, Johnson, and others have pulled in over the last month.
Lose, and not only are post season hopes a pipe dream, but Young's ability to win the really critical games, his supposed maturity, his growth as a professional quarterback, will be called into question.
With Indy playing to earn the top spot in the post season, and Tennessee fighting just to get in, neither team has the luxury of playing this one close to the vest.
The question is, will the combination of Young and Johnson prove to be as effective against a team that looks destined to go all the way as it has against lesser talent?
Or will their detractors be proven correct, and will their play show that they are nothing more than slightly above-average players when faced with top-notch competition?
One thing is for certain if they lose; Vince Young will have an opportunity to show just how much he's grown and matured over the last year.
So even if the Titans lose the game, Vince Young could walk out with a huge win in proving that he is finally ready to be a professional quarterback.
I'm just guessing, but I would bet money that Young and the Titans would rather have the "W".