The Indianapolis Colts (0-2) travel south on I-65 to Music City this weekend to take on their AFC South rivals, the Tennessee Titans (1-1), on Sunday afternoon.
The Titans are breathing a sigh of relief after last week's outstanding comeback win in Seattle in which they trailed by as much as 14 points in the fourth quarter. After six straight quarters of hapless football to start the season, the Tennessee offense finally clicked in the second half, especially the run game, to lead the Titans to an overtime win in one of the NFL's most raucous environments. Tennessee now has a chance to get a leg up in the division with a win at home over Indianapolis.
The Colts are looking for answers after dropping their first two games, both coming at home to NFC West teams. The offense has been trying to find an identity while the defense has, for the most part, looked lost on the field. To make matters worse, the Colts are waiting to find out if new franchise quarterback Carson Wentz is going to be healthy enough to play after spraining both ankles in last Sunday's loss to the Rams.
Indianapolis (0-2) at Tennessee (1-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Titans -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Colts' red zone woes
Make no mistake about it, the Colts' inability to score inside the red zone in the first half against the Rams cost them their first win of the season. On their first red zone trip in the first quarter, Jonathan Taylor was stuffed on three straight runs from the one-yard line before Wentz was sacked on fourth down. Turnover. No points. On their second trip two drives later, Wentz inexplicably threw a no-look shovel pass right into a Rams defensive lineman's hands as tight end Jack Doyle mysteriously ran the route behind said Rams defender. Turnover. No points. Again.
Of their seven goal-to-go plays in the first half against the Rams, the Colts gained positive yards on just one of them. One! Indy's red zone woes against the Rams are part of a bigger-picture issue through the first two weeks of the season, as they are currently the second-worst red zone offense in the NFL. Of their eight trips to the red zone, the Colts have three touchdowns and three turnovers. Their scoring rate of 62 percent is second worst in the league behind only the Dolphins (40 percent).
Historically, the Colts actually have one of the better red zone offenses since head coach Frank Reich took over a few seasons ago, even with Jacoby Brissett and old man Philip Rivers under center. One way for the offense to get back on track is to get the run game going. So far this year, Taylor has yet to receive 20 carries in a game. That has to change. Also, Colts quarterbacks should target scatback extraordinaire Nyheim Hines more out of the backfield. Of his seven receptions this year, none of them have come inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
2. Titans' offense clicking
It took a game and a half and a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, but the Titans' offense is finally showing signs of life. After a lackluster performance in Week 1 against Arizona, Tennessee's offense came alive in the second half against Seattle. The Titans piled up 345 yards of offense in the third and fourth quarters alone last week, thanks in large part to Derrick Henry. The reigning two-time league rushing champion put up 182 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries. Most of his damage was done in the second half, including two of his scores, one being a 60-yard gallop. Typical King Henry stuff. Also, name another team that sees a two-touchdown fourth-quarter deficit and thinks "We should run the ball here."
Henry's performance was only part of the reason Tennessee was able to claw out a win against the Seahawks. Ryan Tannehill and Julio Jones started to mesh as well. Tannehill found Jones six times on eight targets for 128 yards and should have had a touchdown catch against a rather stingy Seahawks secondary. The problem is that Henry was the only other Titan to catch more than three passes against Seattle, hauling in a career-high six.
On Sunday, Tannehill should be able to locate A.J. Brown as well as Jones against a Colts defense that ranks 29th in net pass yards allowed per attempt (9.0) and 27th in yards allowed per play (6.7). Indianapolis will need to find a way to put pressure on Tannehill, who has already been sacked nine times.
3. Wentz: In or out?
Carson Wentz's fragility was the talk of many when the Colts traded for him this offseason. That talk was only amplified after a foot injury suffered in training camp resulted in surgery and him missing the entire preseason. Last Sunday, Wentz sprained both his ankles against the Rams. The first sprain, his right ankle, happened in the third quarter and was mild at worst. The other occurred when Aaron Donald rolled onto his left ankle late in the fourth quarter. That one hurt bad enough that Jacob Eason was sent in and promptly threw a game-sealing pick to Jalen Ramsey.
Wentz is questionable to play on Sunday. He has not practiced this week, and the Colts have been preparing without him. At best, he will be a game-time decision, as Wentz insists he is getting better by the hour, "throwing the kitchen sink at it in the training room," he said earlier this week. Assuming Wentz can play, the big question would be about his trademark mobility, especially with an offensive line that has allowed to him get hit more than any other QB in the league through two weeks: 14 hits, 26 pressures, six sacks, and a 29 percent pressure rate.
If Wentz is out, that leaves Eason, a 2020 fourth-round pick from Washington via Georgia who I'm pretty sure is actually former UGA quarterback Jake Fromm reincarnated … or Aaron Murray … or JT Daniels. Brett Hundley, currently on the practice squad, also has gotten reps in practice, so it's possible he could be elevated to the active roster. He definitely has more experience than Eason, going 3-6 as the starter for the Packers in 2017. But that was three full seasons ago and since then he's appeared in a total of three games (for Arizona in 2019). So whether it's Eason, who has thrown five career passes, or Hundley, who hasn't appeared in an NFL game in 22 months, or some combination of the two, it's not an ideal situation for a team facing a near-must-win situation against a divisional opponent on the road.
This game all depends on if Carson Wentz is healthy enough to play. If he is, the Colts certainly have more than a fair shot. If he's out, I like the Titans and their emerging offense by more than the current spread.
Prediction: Titans 29, Colts 22
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.