After dismal results at the weekend, Romilly Evans expects the Titans to emerge as the towering force tonight...
"Indy's lack of current chemistry is something the Titans can exploit"
Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans
Start-time: Friday, 01:25
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1
Last Sunday saw both the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans turn in performances so dire that they were left grappling for any kind of credibility. Indeed, after Indy were ravaged by the lowly Rams and Tennessee fell to the 0-8 Jaguars, most onlookers would have left with the distinct impression that either side would struggle to chalk up another win this year.
With that in mind, perhaps it's a good thing that they meet one another in tonight's live late game. After all, one will quickly banish the blues on a short week, while the other will be left to lick their narcissistic wounds in a vat of misery.
On the whole, though, neither side should be moping. Standing at 6-3 and 4-5 respectively, Indy and Tennessee both hold leading claims on the AFC South - and are also right in the mix for the final wildcard places, so evenly matched are such tier-two teams in the wider Conference.
Chances are last weekend was a collective aberration, with each outfit admitting to feelings ofremorse, embarrassment and disgust. It sounds closer to a couple's therapy session after an affair. But the key question this evening is which party will rebuild their lives the quicker?
Andrew Luck's transformation from clueless freshman to seasoned quarterback didn't arrive through ugly stages of metamorphosis. He simply walked out at the Lucas Oil Stadium ready to do the job, every inch the poised professional - and six feet four inches of them at that.
However, every since the youngster lost his experienced anchorman in Reggie Wayne (to an ACL tear), some cracks have begun to appear. A fourth-quarter comeback in Houston papered over them somewhat, but they were exposed for all to see in St Louis where Luck couldn't get anything going on offense.
With supposed star rusher, Trent Richardson, failing to shine thus far, Luck had been carrying the "O" on his broad shoulders. Yet last week he was hounded, stripped, and picked off all the way down to his worst figures of the campaign. Colts fans now expect him to lead them deep into the promised land of the postseason. But without his main go-to guy, Luck is striving to strike up a bro-mance with either towering TY Hilton or tight end Coby Fleener.
This lack of current chemistry is something the Titans can exploit, especially now that their issues under center have finally been crystallised via Jake Locker succumbing to a foot injury which rules him out for 2013. As unfortunate as that impediment is for Locker, at least it now ensures some continuity and arguably more promise in the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick made 66% of his passes last week, connecting for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He even ran for a four-yard TD himself. This 30-year-old has always been long on talent but short on tactical awareness, turning into a one-man turnover production line during his three-year spell at Buffalo.
Turnovers, of course, were the main stumbling block in Tennessee even before Fitzy got the gig as starter. However, considering he was intercepted four times last month, the signs don't look encouraging. Step forward another cough-up merchant, Chris Johnson, to staunchly defend him. After all, it takes one to know one. "We've been sloppy with the ball as a team and I have to take some responsibility for that myself," said the two-time fumbler. But as Dowell Loggains (offensive coordinator) says: the nice thing is if we eliminate the turnovers, we'll be all right."
Only tonight will tell if Johnson's words can wave the magic wand. The running back himself should also prove a big part of the solution for the Titans, since his rushing is returning to its explosive best while he hadn't given up the ball in 150 hand-offs prior to that first fumble against the Jags. CJ enjoys some warm and fuzzy memories against Indy (two recent 100-yard efforts versus the Colts) while he also seems to come to the boil in November (averaging a whopping 104.9 yards per match).
Couple those stats to the long arm of potential in Fitzpatrick and the Titans seem the team most likely to improve, especially in front of a home crowd baying to drive the collective nightmare of losing to the Jaguars from St Thomas'.
Tennessee have balance on both sides of the ball and progressive cohesion within their unit. Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt look ready to step up as receivers, while center Chris Spencer possesses some continuity with Fitzpatrick, even if their number one (Brian Schwenke) is out with ankle trouble.
Take on Indy with an invaluable field goal handicap head-start and expect the Titans to roar out to an early lead with homefield advantage. Their low-hanging fruit of 20 total points also looks ripe for the picking. As do these weary Colts.
Back Tennessee Titans (+3) to beat Indy Colts on Match Handicap @ 1.834/5 or better
Back Tennessee Titans (+1.5) to beat Indy Colts on First Half Handicap @ 183 or better
Back Over 20.5 Tennessee Titans Total Points @ 1.9110/11 or better