INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-3) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (2-3)
SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 31-13. Indianapolis has won 16 of the previous 17 meetings, including the last 11. The Colts' last loss occurred on Oct. 30, 2011, as Tennessee posted a 27-10 home victory. The Colts have registered wins in their last five trips to Nashville, including a 34-26 victory on Oct. 23, 2016, and are 11-4 at the Coliseum/LP/Nissan Stadium. Indianapolis and Tennessee have both been members of the AFC South since the start of the 2002 season. The Colts have swept the home-and-home series 10 times. Tennessee has recorded one series sweep (2002).
KEYS TO THE GAME: Indianapolis has to be able to establish a consistent running game. The Colts want to set the tempo and keep Tennessee's high-octane offense off the field for as long as possible. The Colts need to play smart offensively and stay away from ill-timed penalties, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.
Defensively, Indianapolis has to be able to control the Titans' mobile quarterback, Marcus Mariota. They need to keep him in the pocket and not allow him to create plays on the outside or with his legs. That was a major issue two weeks ago in the loss to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Seattle. The Colts' improved run defense will also be severely tested by Tennessee.
The Titans have to hope they can get Mariota back on the field. The extra day might give Mariota's injured hamstring enough time to heal to allow him to play. Without Mariota, the Titans' offense ground to a halt against the Dolphins.
Even against a porous Colts defense, the Titans will have to find ways to move the football better than they did in Miami. The key to that might be to use more toss sweeps and counters instead of pounding up the middle with DeMarco Murray, which did not work last week. The Titans also have to find some threat of the pass, even if Matt Cassel is under center again.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Jacoby Brissett vs. Titans pass defense. Brissett has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 997 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also has thrown three interceptions, two in overtime games. Brissett is a mobile quarterback who can move the chains with his legs (he has three rushing TDs). Tennessee comes into the game ranked 24th in the league in pass defense and 18th against the run.
--Titans TE Delanie Walker vs. Colts S Malik Hooker. Walker is a seasoned veteran and the Titans' best pass catcher, even after 12 years in the NFL. Hooker, a rookie, could wind up matched against Walker for at least part of the day, which could be an advantage for the Titans.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Colts CB Rashaan Melvin. He may have bounced around the NFL a bit since entering the league, but Melvin seems to have found a home in the Indianapolis secondary. The former Northern Illinois standout has proven to be a steadying influence. He played well as a spot starter in 2016, especially later in the season. Melvin has carried that play into this year. His two interceptions are second on the team to rookie S Malik Hooker. Melvin also is fourth on the team with 24 tackles and has a team-leading eight passes broken up.
FAST FACTS: Colts RB Frank Gore had 121 scrimmage yards (71 receiving) in the last meeting. He has four rushing TDs in his past three games at Tennessee. ... Colts WR T.Y. Hilton had seven catches for 177 yards last week and has gone over 150 yards in two of his past three games. He has 230 yards and two TD catches in the past two meetings and has a TD catch in four of the past six vs. the division. ... Colts rookie S Malik Hooker is tied for second in the NFL with three interceptions. ... Colts K Adam Vinatieri converted all four field-goal tries, including the winning 51-yarder in OT, last week. He has 24 winning FGs in the final minute of the fourth quarter or OT and 10 OT winners, both the most in NFL history. His 2,411 points are third in NFL history. ... Titans QB Marcus Mariota has averaged 296.3 passing yards, with six TDs and two interceptions, in the past three meetings. He has thrown at least two TD passes in four straight AFC South games. ... Titans RB DeMarco Murray aims for his fourth straight meeting with a TD. He has 264 scrimmage yards and three TDs in the past three meetings. ... Titans LB Derrick Morgan has three sacks in past two meetings. He has six sacks in the past seven vs. the division. ... Titans LB Erik Walden had 23 sacks in four seasons with Indy (2013-16).
PREDICTION: These are two of the league's three worst scoring defenses, surrendering a combined 60 points per game. But neither team has been scoring well. Mariota could fix that for the home team and end the 11-game losing streak.
OUR PICK: Titans, 20-13.