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INDIANAPOLIS – Some rather significant playoff implications on the line?

Yep, that’s the case when the Colts (4-5) and Titans (5-4) get together Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts take on the Titans in Week 11:

1. Handling The Pressure

-The Colts will see their most exotic defensive front of the season on Sunday. Tennessee prides itself on employing multiple personnel packages defensively and using that to wreck quarterbacks via the blitz. Andrew Luck and Ryan Kelly have been outstanding this season in handling pre-snap looks and making sure unaccounted rushers are known. We will see if the incredible pass protection success can continue against a totally different challenge.

2. Sound Tackling

-Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was not pleased with his unit’s tackling last week. There’s even more of an onus on improving that this week when you are talking about tackling elusive guys like Dion Lewis, and even Marcus Mariota. With the Colts playing so much zone, they must be a sound tackling bunch to limit post-touch production.

3. Improve the Pass Defense Without Hooker

-Injuries have once again hit the safety position with Malik Hooker out for Sunday. The only time Hooker missed a game this season was against Oakland, when Derek Carr completed 17 straight passes and the Raiders put together 4 long touchdown drives. Carr also had the highest quarterback rating of any opposing Colts’ QB this season. Most of the current pass coverage issues involves not having the proper recognition in when to break from their zone responsibilities.

4. Keep Corey Davis Contained

-It’s been about a month and a half since the Colts have faced a No. 1 receiver with elite playmaking ability. Davis is being targeted like a No. 1 guy and he’s shown flashes of why the Titans took him 5th overall last year. It will be interesting to see if the Colts handle Davis any differently, given his ability. Davis has at least a handful of catches in 5 games this season.

5. Finish In The Red Zone

-The Titans are the league’s best red-zone defense which has led to them being the NFL’s top scoring defense. The Colts have done a very nice job lately of finishing off drives, something that did hurt this team earlier in the season. Now, the tight ends have been a frequent red-zone target of Andrew Luck. But the Titans have yet allow a tight end touchdown in 2018. The Colts’ tight ends have hauled in 15 touchdown receptions in 2018. Something has to give this weekend.

6. Nelson vs. Casey

-Let the Quenton Nelson tour continue this weekend with another elite interior defensive line presence waiting for him. Jurrell Casey is a disruptive defensive tackle and should provide another challenge to Nelson. The national talk around Nelson ramped up another notch this weekend so you know defenders are going to be itching to try and give the rookie some first-year moments. The Nelson/Casey matchup should be a fun one to watch this weekend.

7. Beating Better Teams

-In winning three straight games, the Colts have beaten teams all who are at least three games under .500. The days of playing those bottom feeders are coming to an end. Earlier in the week, Frank Reich acknowledged the importance of this Sunday’s game. A win for the Colts would put them back to .500 for the first time since mid-September and it would also give them a really important win over a divisional opponent, who is also in the thick of the Wild Card race.

 

Bowen’s Prediction: Titans, 27-23. Similar to last week, I view this as a coin flip. But I think the Titans are more disciplined than Jacksonville, so that’s why I’ll give the very slight edge to Tennessee. Handling the dual-threat ability of Marcus Mariota with a team possessing talent in the run game is a concern, especially given how the Colts have defended lately in pass coverage and with injuries once again hitting the secondary. On offense, the Colts are going to see a much more sophisticated defensive front that has led to the Titans being the league’s top scoring unit (16.8 points per game allowed). Unlike last week, I see this being a really competitive game throughout 4 quarters. This time, the Colts don’t find the key defensive play in falling to the Titans.