Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has missed one game with a hamstring injury but thinks he may play against the Colts on Monday night.
QUESTION: We’re well aware in Nashville of the Colts’ 11-game streak against the Titans, which at this point seems like a gigantic mental hurdle for the Titans. What about for the Colts? Do you sense an extra confidence for this game each time it comes up?
ANSWER: The fact that the Colts have won 11 straight vs. Tennessee, and the last Colts QB the Titans beat was none other than Curtis Painter, is probably one of the more stunning stats in the entire league right now. I know the Colts players love it. T.Y. Hilton, for instance, is 10-0 in his career vs. the Titans. The Colts certainly believe they’ll win every game against Tennessee, no matter who’s starting at quarterback (see: Josh Freeman a few years back, only days after they signed him), no matter what the score is at the start of the fourth quarter. The Colts have pulled off a handful of comebacks in recent years. Mental hurdle? Until the Titans end the streak, it’s hard to think otherwise.
Q: Is this team better than you thought it would be without Andrew Luck?
A: No. It’s a deeply flawed roster in the midst of a massive rebuild under first-year general manager Chris Ballard. The defense is better, especially up front, but still gives up way too many chunk plays. Jacoby Brissett’s been impressive given the short amount of time he’s been in town, but the offense still isn’t fluid. Save for a few chunk plays from T.Y. Hilton and rookie running back Marlon Mack, this team is 0-5 right now.
Q: What about with Andrew Luck? Are enough pieces in place for the Colts to make a run at the AFC South when he returns?
A: It’s hard for me to rule anyone out of the AFC South race at this point with how chaotic it’s been early on. The next month will be vital for the Colts – they’ll see all three AFC South teams in the next four weeks, and Luck should return by the end of that stretch. I think Tennessee’s the best all-around team in the division, but I could make the case for each of the four winning it. I still don’t think the Colts are built to contend in the division this year, unless Luck gets really, really hot in December.
Q: One quick one off the field, what has been the reaction in Indy this week to the Mike Pence stunt?
A: There was certainly a level of outrage initially. It felt planned, for one. Secondly, this was supposed to be Peyton Manning’s day, and the vice president swooped in and stole the headlines. But there is absolutely a large number of people who have defended Pence for leaving the game early.
Q: And finally, your keys to this game and a prediction.
A: Brissett continues to improve, and the Colts continue to get healthier. But they remain the NFL’s worst fourth-quarter team, having given up 64 points in that quarter this season. Their only two victories they had to eek out over the winless Browns and the winless 49ers. In a close game with both starting quarterbacks expected not to play, I’d give the edge to the better overall team. That’s Tennessee. The streak ends. Titans win, 24-20.
Contact Joe Rexrode at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.