INDIANAPOLIS -- Heading into the final regular season game of the 2015 National Football League season, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is not about to give in to any negativity.
Sure, a lot of things have to happen to ensure that Pagano's team will make a fourth straight trip to the AFC playoffs. Well, nine things have to happen and that includes the Colts posting a win at home on Sunday against AFC South rival Tennessee.
Throw in the fact that Indianapolis is down to either Ryan Lindley, Josh Freeman or Stephen Morris most likely starting at quarterback against the Titans.
Andrew Luck won't be available for the eighth straight week and Matt Hasselbeck remains doubtful because of a sprained right shoulder.
Morris was added to the roster late last week. Freeman and Lindley were signed on Tuesday. It will be a major crash course by the Colts offensive coaching staff to have all three ready for Sunday's game.
Freeman and Lindley took the bulk of the workouts during Wednesday's practice. And Hasselbeck is not ruling out a return as he wants to give the coaching staff another viable option.
With the Indianapolis quarterback situation as dire as it is heading into this week's game, it's going to take the longest of the longshots for Indianapolis to make the post-season.
Pagano knows that. His team knows that too. But there will be no throwing in of the towel for the Colts. Far from it.
"We've been through worse," Pagano said, adding that he has been impressed with Morris, Freeman and Lindley's work habits as they try to learn the Indianapolis offense as quickly as possible.
"We are still in the playoff hunt. Can't tell who's going to start Sunday. They haven't left the building since they got here."
The embattled Colts coach, who's job security moving forward remains very much in doubt, isn't backing up an inch.
"We're in a great spot; I love it" Pagano said. "Until you've been in the arena and risked it all, you'd love this spot."
Given the team's tenuous quarterback situation, he expects Tennessee to crowd the line of scrimmage on Sunday.
"(They) won't let us run," the Colts coach said. "(They'll) dare us to throw."
The Titans probably will have nine or 10 defenders in the box on first and second down, and then blitz on third down.
As for all the calculations being done to try and figure out Indianapolis' playoff chances, Pagano isn't going to concern himself with the math.
"Just worried about Tennessee," he said. "Can't wait to see what the last chapter holds."
SERIES HISTORY: 42nd regular season meeting. Colts lead the regular season series, 28-13. Indianapolis has won eight straight meetings with the Titans, dating to Dec. 18, 2011 (27-13). The Colts have posted a victory in 12 of the last 14 meetings with Tennessee. Indianapolis is 16-6 against the Titans in games played at the Hoosier/RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts are 7-0 against Tennessee at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis posted a 35-33 over the Titans in the first meeting this season as when quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Frank Gore rushed for 86 yards in 14 carries and ran for two touchdowns. The Colts won the last meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium 41-17 on Sept. 28, 2014, as Luck threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns. Former Indianapolis WR Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Tennessee's last win in the series occurred on Oct. 30, 2011 (27-10). The Colts have swept the home-and-home AFC South series eight times while Tennessee has done it once. There have been four splits in the series (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011). Tennessee won the only post-season meeting 19-16 on Jan. 16, 2000, in an AFC Divisional playoff game. Titans running back Eddie George rushed for 162 yards in 26 carries and a 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that was the big play in the game.
GAME PLAN: Survive and then see what happens.That's what Indianapolis plans to do against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. With the starting quarterback decision still to be made, look for the Colts to try to get the running game untracked.
Indianapolis had success running the football in the first half last week against Miami before things bogged down over the final two quarters. For the Colts to have an opportunity to win the game, the running game has to be much more consistent.
Defensively, Indianapolis has to be able to force turnovers and get the Titans off the field on third down. Controlling the tempo from a defensive-standpoint will be crucial.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts interior offensive line vs. Titans DT Jurrell Casey.Indianapolis' interior offensive line has been a problem spot all season long. Now with G Hugh Thornton sidelined by an ankle injury, things will get that much tougher for the Colts. Casey leads Tennessee with seven sacks and is fifth on the team with 80 total tackles. He is tough to contain.
--Titans QB Zach Mettenberger vs. Colts pass rush.Mettenberger will be starting in place of rookie QB Marcus Mariota. He has been sacked 12 times this season and Tennessee has allowed 50 sacks. Indianapolis found its pass rush in last week's win over Miami, coming up with seven sacks. OLB Robert Mathis earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his two sack performance against the Dolphins. Rookie DT T.Y. McGill and DE Kendall Langford also had sacks each for the Colts.