Colts vs. Titans: AFC South Pressure Game of the Week Matchup Preview

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 25, 2012

Everything rides on Luck for the Colts.
Everything rides on Luck for the Colts.Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans each feature one of the worst defenses in football.

The winner may well make the playoffs.

Such is the state of the once-mighty AFC in 2012.

Here's everything you need to know about the key divisional matchup in Week 8.

What it Means

Only three teams in the conference have more wins than the Colts and Titans, and whichever team comes out on top is going to feel poised for a second-half run to a Wild Card berth.

This game gets the Pressure Game of the Week tag precisely for that reason. For all intents and purposes, this is a playoff game.

The loser will be forced to realize that they won't be able to count any game on the schedule from here on out as a win.

The winner will get to keep dreaming for at least one more week.

Matchup to Watch

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Andrew Luck vs. Titans' Secondary

This game is going to be a fascinating test for Luck. The Titans have one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory and surrender yards and points in bunches.

The Colts don't have the kind of running game that can punish Tennessee, so everything is going to rest on Luck's ability to get the ball to his receivers downfield.

The Titans' corners, Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty, haven't been bad, but Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineux have been a cataclysm at safety.

Take this go-ahead touchdown from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Steve Johnson in Week 7.

On this play, Griffin is the only safety as the Bills spread the field.

For reasons that cannot be fully comprehended, Griffin meanders aimlessly down into the flat, perhaps to cover an outlet receiver or maybe to execute the world's slowest blitz.

The result is single coverage on Johnson, who beats his man for an easy touchdown.

While it's possible Griffin was merely executing his assignment, that would mean the design of the defense was terrible.

These are the kinds of mistakes (either by design or player error) which have plagued the Tennessee secondary all season.

Luck is looking for mistakes exactly like this one and must take advantage deep downfield when he see what he wants.

Stat that Matters

Adjusted Sack Rate

If Tennessee is going to prevent the big plays the Colts are looking for, it's going to come by generating pressure up front.

The Titans haven't been effective at getting that pressure all season, ranking just 28th overall in adjusted sack rate.

The Colts are middle-of-the-pack in the metric offensively, and Luck has shown a penchant both for escaping the rush, but also taking a bad sack on occasion as well.

Biggest Advantage for the Colts

The Titans rank 31st in the NFL against No. 1 wideouts.

Paging Reggie Wayne. Mr. Wayne? Your table is ready, sir.

Wayne has been dominant for the Colts in 2012, revitalizing his career. If he has a big game, the Indy offense will be difficult to contain.

Biggest Advantage for the Titans

The Colts are surrendering 4.7 yards a rush, good for 28th in the NFL, and are 31st in DVOA against the run.

Tennessee's run game has been inconsistent, but there's no question that Chris Johnson has been revitalized in recent weeks.

Look for the Titans to play a similar style to what the Jets did two weeks ago when they ramrodded the ball over the Colts en route to an easy win.

Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game

This amuses me and symbolizes something. I'm not sure what exactly.

The Colts Will Win If...

If Luck has a career day and lights up the Titans, Indy could win.

That's a lot of pressure to put on a young kid, but the fact is that they aren't going anywhere unless he hits the next level of development fast.

The key to beating Tennessee is to put up 35-plus points, so Luck will have to be locked in for the Colts to survive this one.

The Titans Will Win If...

There's no question that Tennessee will score on Indianapolis. The Colts are allowing 26 points a game, and that represents a reasonable floor for the Titans in Week 8.

The only challenge will be keeping Luck off the scoreboard.

If the defense can force Indy into long drives and not give up quick strikes deep, they should be able to outlast the Colts.


Neither of these teams is very good, but one will have four wins at the end of the game by default.

The Colts have been out-scored on the road 76-30.

Indy is just too young and too thin to win a road game against a motivated opponent.

The Titans' problems are legion, but look for them to even their record on the season.

Titans 38 Colts 21