INDIANAPOLIS — So begins the problem of the Indianapolis Colts, who will attempt to not get caught up within the significance of a win-or-go-home, regular-season finale at Tennessee on Sunday night time.
The winner of those 9-6 AFC South Division groups earns a playoff berth, probably the sixth seed. The loser is out. Ought to the Houston Texans (10-5) stumble at house in opposition to Jacksonville, which appears unlikely, then the Colts-Titans winner would declare the division title and a 3rd or fourth seed.
All of that conjecture is what Colts first-year coach Frank Reich needs to maintain out of his locker room, as a lot as humanly doable anyway. He is satisfied the Colts have been in a position to climb again from a 1-5 begin with wins in eight of 9 video games as a result of the gamers stayed targeted every week on getting higher every day and did not take note of the large image.
However Reich admitted on a Monday convention name that his group cannot fully tune out what’s being stated about what is actually a playoff recreation.
“We have stated that, ‘Hey we do not dwell in a vacuum. There’s stuff stated, performed and that is wonderful,'” Reich stated. “So, all of the extra motive — simply perceive that there is this gravitational pull going the opposite approach of the mindset that we need to have. There’s a pure gravitational pull from the surface and it is not a unfavourable or evil, it is simply not the best mindset for us who’re taking part in the sport.
“So we have now to combat that ‘gravitational pull’ just a little bit tougher and simply keep targeted on what we’re doing and getting higher daily.”
The Colts routed the Titans 38-10 on Nov. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The protection hounded Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota with 4 first-half sacks, the final re-injuring his elbow and forcing an early exit.
Mariota suffered a stinger and made one other early departure within the Titans’ 25-16 house win over Washington on Saturday. Whereas his standing is unsure, Titans first-year head coach Mike Vrabel stated he was inspired by how his quarterback was feeling on Monday. The backup is former Jacksonville castoff Blaine Gabbert.
The Titans and Colts each have key gamers who’re damage — however the Titans shall be with out four-time Professional Bowl defensive deal with Jurrell Casey, who suffered a knee harm on Saturday and has been positioned on injured reserve. In his 15 begins, Casey had 62 tackles, seven sacks and two compelled fumbles.
On the opposite facet of the ball, Colts middle Ryan Kelly is banged up and questionable for Sunday’s recreation. He would have seen loads of Casey if Casey had been accessible for the finale. Kelly missed three video games with a sprained knee ligament, and he suffered a neck harm and did not end Sunday’s 28-27 house win over the N.Y. Giants on Sunday.
And Colts tight finish Eric Ebron, who has scored 13 touchdowns and was chosen final week to his first Professional Bowl, is in concussion protocol. He did not end Sunday’s recreation, both.
“We’re simply going to have to watch that because the week progresses,” Reich stated of each gamers.
Reich gave the identical wait-and-see, later-in-the-week standing on linebacker Anthony Walker (shoulder) and security Clayton Geathers (knee), every of whom missed Sunday’s recreation.
Colts four-time Professional Bowl large receiver T.Y. Hilton has been taking part in on a sore ankle and practiced solely as soon as in two weeks. He has been a game-time resolution for the previous two video games, however you would not know he is ailing by how Hilton has performed. He has caught 12 passes for 223 yards in these begins.
He is had 77 or extra receiving yards in seven consecutive begins, and his 856 receiving yards in that span are essentially the most of any NFL cross catcher.
Reich stated no one is aware of how a lot Hilton is hurting as a result of he does not say.
” that’s the factor about T.Y. [Hilton], I do not assume he actually ever lets us know,” Reich stated. “I simply know it is quite a bit. I simply know it is quite a bit due to the restricted apply time that he is had after which to go on the market and do what he’s doing. I simply assume the man is one of the best — extremely powerful, by no means complains. I’ve discovered with T.Y., I do not go and ask him how he is feeling daily. I simply do not try this. He tells me he’ll be there and I belief that. So he is one of the best.”
Hilton missed two video games with hamstring and shoulder accidents in Weeks 5 and 6. The seventh-year professional has skilled a lot in his profession, the group is shocked when he cannot swimsuit up.
“However that course of might be sped up by his years within the system right here and me listening to it from the trainers and medical doctors right here, ‘It is T.Y. He has some superhuman approach of taking part in by means of stuff,'” Reich stated. “Then he does it for us a couple of occasions right here this 12 months and also you see how legit that’s. , these are accidents, as gamers we have now all skilled these sorts of accidents. So we all know when he’s doing what he’s doing what meaning.”
Titans defensive gamers will not have to be reminded of the humbling incontrovertible fact that Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is an unbeaten 10-Zero in opposition to the group. He accomplished 23-of-29 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns within the earlier rout.
Luck virtually willed his group to Sunday’s comeback victory from a 10-point deficit within the third quarter. He drove the Colts on a pair of landing drives, the latter a 1-yard scoring cross to large receiver Chester Rogers. Reich had referred to as for a run, however Luck noticed the defensive alignment and checked to the cross.
“I am unable to say sufficient of how a lot I respect Andrew on the sideline,” Reich stated. “If and after we battle early, he’s simply the identical man. He is optimistic, he is, ‘Hey, let’s do one play at a time.’ He is speaking to everyone. He’s actually speaking to everyone on the sidelines, then proper earlier than we exit for the subsequent sequence, he’ll come over and we may have a fast chat. He’ll discuss like that to me. I really like his strategy, it is simply infectious, it is optimistic and I believe it is making a huge impact on the offense and on the group.”
The Colts try to make the playoffs for the primary time since 2014, after they reached the AFC title recreation and misplaced at New England. The Titans snapped an eight-year playoff drought final season, after they upset Kansas Metropolis at Arrowhead Stadium after which misplaced at New England.
“After [Sunday’s] recreation we simply stated, ‘Hey, we have got one week assured to us. That is it. So let’s benefit from it daily, get higher and prepare for this recreation developing on Sunday,'” Reich stated.
Not lengthy after the Pittsburgh Steelers misplaced at New Orleans on Sunday night time, NBC introduced the Colts-Titans recreation could be flexed to an eight:20 p.m. Jap time kickoff. The Steelers’ loss enabled the Colts to maneuver into the sixth and remaining AFC playoff spot, by advantage of the head-to-head tiebreaker benefit over the Titans.
Trailing 17-7 at halftime on Sunday, Reich admitted there have been some “passionate” statements made within the locker room in regards to the “embarrassing” effort. It wasn’t simply coaches. Gamers spoke up, too. A kind of was Luck, who is not recognized for giving fiery speeches, however raised his voice this time, a lot to the shock of others. The Colts have been virtually late popping out for the third quarter. “Passionate’s a great way to explain it,” Luck stated. “What are the issues we are able to enhance? And I believe we did enhance. I believe we did come out of that tunnel with a greater mindset than we began the sport.” Luck did his half by finishing 16 of 23 passes for 214 yards and two TDs after halftime.
Luck’s TD cross to Rogers marked the passer’s 21st game-winning drive within the fourth quarter or extra time in his 85-game, regular-season profession.
Luck has now accomplished a single-season, career-high 406 passes this season. And the quantity ought to be considerably greater as a result of the Colts have dropped 24 passes, second most within the league, in keeping with The Washington Put up.
Not lengthy after Kelly exited, Luck took his solely sack of the sport. That was in no way a coincidence. Luck hasn’t been sacked when Kelly has been on the sphere the final six video games. The Colts lead the league with simply 17 sacks allowed.
The Titans are on a four-game win streak largely as a result of they’ve relied upon operating again Derrick Henry, who has rushed for 532 yards and eight TDs in that stretch. That features a monster 238-yard, four-TD effort in opposition to Jacksonville. It is particularly value noting contemplating the Colts are one in all simply three groups to not enable a 100-yard rusher this season. The Colts restricted Giants rookie operating again Saquon Barkley, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, to only 43 yards on 21 carries. NFL main rusher Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas had 87 yards speeding the earlier week in opposition to the Colts. The final time the Colts confronted Henry, he ran for 46 yards on 9 carries.
Hilton surpassed eight,000 profession receiving yards on Sunday. He is one in all simply three gamers to try this since he entered the NFL in 2012.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri will transfer into third place in profession video games performed (353) in NFL historical past on Sunday. He can even cross Robert Mathis and Justin Snow and transfer into sixth place with 194 video games performed for the Colts.
Rookie operating again Nyheim Hines caught 4 passes in opposition to the Giants to spice up his season complete to 60, which ties Austin Collie (2009) for fourth-most by a Colts rookie since 1970.
Defensive deal with Denico Autry had his three-game sack streak finish as a result of the Giants dedicated to double-team blocks more often than not. Autry had six sacks within the earlier three begins to spice up his team-leading complete to 9. He completed this recreation with two tackles, together with one for a loss.
Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard has widened his NFL total-tackle result in 23 with 155 stops. He added 9 in opposition to the Giants. He is made the third-most tackles for a Colts participant in a single season since 1994.
Leonard and Broderick Thomas are the one gamers in NFL historical past to have greater than 150 complete tackles and 7 sacks in a season.
Security George Odum tied Leonard for team-high deal with honors with 9.