Injuries have hit the Titans hard along their offensive line since the teams last met in week eight. Last week, starting tackle David Stewart broke his leg and starting guard Steve Hutchinson injured his knee. Both were placed on injured reserve this week. Adding to that, Michael Roos, the other tackle, has been inactive all week and likely won't start today.
The Titans picked up tackle Mitch Petrus off New England's practice squad. Petrus has already seen the Colts once this season when he made a spot start for New England.
With the Titans starting four new players along their offensive line from the group that started the season, a tremendous opportunity is there for a front seven that has been getting more and more pressure on opposing quarterbacks as the season has gone on. The Colts enter Sunday's game with 23 sacks, but have had multiple sacks in three of their last five games.
A big part of that increased pressure has been the improving health of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The prolific sack tandem have both battled injuries this season that has kept their tag teaming at a minimum. With two new tackles starting for the Titans on Sunday, those two are poised to have a field day.
The Colts linemen will need to take advantage of Hutchinson's absence as well and get into the Titans' backfield. That will disrupt RB Chris Johnson's ability to get into the second level where he is so dangerous.
The wild card is Jake Locker. Locker didn't play in the first matchup and represents the most mobile quarterback the Colts have seen all year outside of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers rushed for 57 yards back in week five, but ended up being the Packers leading rusher with that total. Locker will get his chances to run, but the Colts have to contain him and not let him turn any scrambles into big plays. The best way to do that is to keep him in the pocket and make sure tackles when they have the chance.
The Colts should also be mindful of the screen game as it involves Johnson. It's hard to imagine the Titans having a lot of success in that department given their new offensive line, but the Titans are going to have to do something of that nature to slow down Freeney and Mathis coming off the edge.
The Colts will win, but it won't be until the fourth quarter that they're able to pull away.
Final score: Colts 24, Titans 13
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