The Tennessee Titans have only won the AFC South twice in franchise history (2002, 2008) but the team is in the driver seat for their third division title this season.
The Indianapolis Colts (5-3) appear to be the only credible threat to their quest and now the Titans (6-2) will host the Colts on a short week on Thursday Night Football at Nissan Stadium for first place in the division.
“As far as the Titans, [I] just really look forward to coming and playing a division team, a great football team, an extremely well-coached team,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Obviously, a team that has established itself as really the top team in our division, and so it's a challenge for us to come on the road at their place and play a team that is good in all three phases. We'll do our best to get ready for the game.”
“It’s a big game,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Obviously, division games are huge. Being at home, big opportunity on Thursday night so we're looking forward to this one. I know we all want this really bad, as do they. But at the end of the day it’s going to come down to who can go out and execute and make plays on Thursday night.”
Clearly, Reich’s statement anointing the Titans as the best team in the division puts a target on Tennessee’s back. The Colts are just one game back of the Titans in the playoff race and they boast one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL.
Indianapolis allows the fewest yards per game (290), the third-fewest passing yards (206) and third-fewest rushing yards (77.9) per game. The Colts also lead the league in interceptions (11) and they surrender the third-fewest points per game (20).
“Tackling, being disruptive, everything that a defense is supposed to be doing; those guys do that, and they play well,” running back Derrick Henry said. “The guys have been together. They’re probably one of the top run defenses in the league. I feel like they’ve been like that for the past couple years. It’s by the way they play. Guys are being physical and make plays.”
Added Tannehill: “We're just trying to go win one game at a time. Indy is doing a great job over there. They’ve won a lot of games as well. Still a lot of football to be played. I think it comes down to who can get better as the stretch towards the back half of the season goes on and close out the season strong.”
The next three weeks should show the Titans where they rank not only in the context of their division but in the AFC in general. Tennessee plays Indianapolis twice in the next weeks sandwiched around a game against the Baltimore Ravens (6-2).
“I think it's a great challenge,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “They're playing very well. We'll have to be at our best at 7:20 on Thursday…We'll have to be able to block them. We’ll have to be able to protect Ryan (Tannehill), and them obviously be able to try and run the football against a top-ranked run defense.”
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