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Titans can grab AFC South edge, put Colts in deeper hole

Thu Sep 23 5:55pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) walks off the filed with quarterback Jacob Eason (9) following an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. Los Angeles won 27-24. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


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Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich walks off the field following an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. Los Angeles won 27-24. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


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Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, left, talks with quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle. The Titans won 33-30 in overtime. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)


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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is stopped just short of the goal line by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks (56) and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Kerry Hyder (51) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle. Henry scored on the next play and the extra point was good to tie the game at 30. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) fends off Seattle Seahawks strong safety Quandre Diggs (6) as he runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are coming off a big overtime victory in a place that's very hard for visitors to win.

Hosting Indianapolis with the Colts dealing with both an injured quarterback and off to an 0-2 start should be the perfect chance Sunday for the Titans to build momentum and grab the early edge toward repeating as AFC South champs.

Except in this rivalry, the road team has won the past five games.

''Anytime that you can get our division rival, whatever you want to call it, get them 0-3, win our first division game, we understand how important it is to win home games at our stadium, but also win division games,' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ''It's going to be really huge for us.''

The Titans already come in needing to make up for being blown out at home in the season opener. They avoided their own 0-2 hole last week by beating Seattle 33-30 in overtime.

The Colts are trying to figure out who's playing quarterback after Carson Wentz sprained not one, but both ankles in last week's 27-24 loss to the Rams. Jacob Eason made his NFL debut last week in relief of Wentz late. Brett Hundley likely will be activated from the practice squad.

''My history with Carson is that he's a pretty fast healer and that he's tough,'' Colts coach Frank Reich said. ''If there's any chance he can play with these ankle sprains then he'll play. Obviously, it's an incredibly big game. We're not holding back anything, so this is a big game. If he can play, he'll play.''

DIVISIONAL DOMINANCE

Derrick Henry is on quite the run through the AFC South. The AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year has a five-game streak of 100-yard rushing performances inside the division for the longest such streak since 1970, and he has topped 175 yards with at least two TDs in the past three.

Adrian Peterson in 2012 with Minnesota was the previous player to have six straight divisional games with 100 yards or more rushing.

Henry also is averaging 97.1 yards rushing per divisional game. Only Hall of Famer Barry Sanders has averaged more (104.7) with a minimum of 30 divisional games since the 1970 merger. Henry is averaging 5.84 yards per rushing attempt in his career, highest among players since 1970 with at least 400 carries. Henry has run 28 times for at least 10 yards against the Colts in his career.

LINE TROUBLE

From 2018 to 20, Indy's offensive line was one of the league's top units.

Not this season. Wentz already has been sacked six times and taken 21 hits with Indy running for 3.96 yards per carry. Sure, the Colts have played two traditionally strong defenses. They also haven't played yet with their five projected starters.

Left tackle Eric Fisher returned last weekend from the torn Achilles tendon suffered in the AFC championship game, but right tackle Braden Smith sat out with an injured foot. Center Ryan Kelly (elbow) and All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson (foot) also missed three weeks of training camp with injuries.

They're hoping to turn things around Sunday. Nelson said it was really sad seeing Wentz on the ground in pain, then limping off after spraining his right ankle.

''All the times he's gotten hit, all the times he's gotten up, he hasn't complained once and we've got to do a better job up front,'' Nelson said. ''If everyone just does their job, we can light it up.''

JONES CAN CATCH THAT

Julio Jones showed last week why the Titans traded for him as he had six catches for 128 yards. Two qualified as ''tight-window receptions'' with a defender less than a yard away, according to Next Gen Stats. Jones made a 51-yarder that is one of just four such tight-window catches of at least 50 yards this season.

The seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has 82 such catches since Next Gen Stats started tracking that stat in 2016, most in the NFL in that span.

GOING FOR IT

Reich is one of the league's more aggressive play-callers on fourth down. It hasn't paid off yet this season.

Only Chicago has failed to convert more fourth downs than the Colts, who are 0 for 4. Last week, Reich's decision on fourth-and-goal from the Rams 1 backfired when Wentz was sacked for a 9-yard loss.

FOUND SOMETHING

The Titans have been working to turn around a defense that was among the NFL's worst last season. They think they found something in the second half in Seattle when they allowed only a TD off a blown coverage.

''I think we're going in the right direction,'' Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said.

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