A chance at a three-game lead in the AFC South awaits the Indianapolis Colts as they travel for a game tonight at Tennessee. All they need is a win.
The Colts (6-3) play the Titans (4-5) at 8:25 tonight in LP Field.
Here are five keys for the Colts to return to Indianapolis in a great mood:
With Titans quarterback Jake Locker lost for the season with a foot injury, this is Ryan Fitzpatrick's team to run now. Fitzpatrick is a decent quarterback, and the Colts are coming off a spanking by decent quarterback Kellen Clemens of the Rams. It'll be imperative that Fitzpatrick not have the pocket protection and time to scan the field for receivers. Robert Mathis needs to camp in the backfield. Slowing Chris Johnson at running back would be helpful in this pass-rush effort.
Secondary wake-up call
The Colts secondary did not play well against the Rams. Vontae Davis and Cassius Vaughn were burned several times on pass plays and neither Antoine Bethea nor LaRon Landry had exceptional performances. The Titans don't necessarily have terrific receivers, but Tavon Austin wasn't a star before the Colts made him look like one. Big pass plays cannot happen tonight.
Offensive jump start
Everyone knows the Colts need a fast start on offense. They'll take a semi-brisk start. The worst thing for the Colts would be a couple of three-and-outs to start the game. All sports success relies on a heavy dose of momentum, so the Colts need something to happen early on offense. Maybe that's Andrew Luck going deep to T.Y. Hilton. Maybe it's a quick strike series of passes to Coby Fleener. Maybe it's getting Trent Richardson in the open field. Something, anything, needs to happen early.
Smart special teams
How many bad moves did the Colts make on special teams against the Rams? David Reed kept bringing the kickoffs out of the end zone and giving the Colts poor field position. He's shown nothing to indicate he should have this job. The 98-yard punt return allowed to Austin was unacceptable. The Colts were caught flat-footed. All areas of special teams must be sharper at Tennessee.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he didn't have his team ready to play Sunday. That's a stunning admission, even if he was exaggerating to try to take the blame. The Colts have been in several games where they don't seem to have the same energy and focus as their opponents. That could be fatal on the road, in a stadium where fans know this is a do-or-probably-die game for the Titans.
The pick: Colts 20, Titans 19